Tuesday, September 30, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Bison after conference win

Leader sportswriter

The Carlisle Bison will try to improve to 2-1 in 2A-6 Conference play this Friday night when they host Marvell, but unlike previous years, the Mustangs won’t be a guaranteed win.

Marvell was winless in the 2011 and 2012 seasons, and it looked as if the Mustangs were on their way to another winless season in 2013.

After losing the first nine games of last season, including a week-eight forfeit to Carlisle, Marvell beat Palestine-Wheatley 22-12 in the regular-season finale, and it appears as though the Mustangs have done their best to carry some of that momentum into the 2014 season.

The Mustangs are still winless this season at 0-4, but they pushed Augusta in their first 2A-6 game of the season, losing to the Red Devils 25-22. Carlisle (1-3, 1-1) narrowly beat the same Augusta team a week later by the final score of 44-38.

Marvell was hammered in its other conference game against McCrory in week three, losing 42-8, and even though they also lost their two nonconference games in convincing fashion, it was against tradition rich teams Barton and Rison.

“They’re athletic and they’ve got some size up front,” said Carlisle coach Jack Keith of Marvell. “They seem to be getting their act together. They’re not a team you can snuff your nose at. We’re going to have to play to the best of our ability and get it done.”

Marvell also has the benefit this year of having the same head coach as it did the previous season in second-year coach Jessie McGruder. McGruder is the fourth Mustang head coach in the past five years. The Mustangs base out of the Spread on offense, and like to run the ball out of it with their skill players.

“They go a little bit of pro (style) with split backs,” Keith said. “They mix it up a little bit with that, but they mainly run it a lot out of the Spread. They’ve got athletes and if they get in space it can be tough.

“We’ve got to play good fundamental defense and rally to the football and gang-tackle, and if we can do that we’ll be alright.”

Defensively, Keith said he isn’t sure exactly what the Mustangs will show against his offense on Friday, but said he figures they’ll stack the box like other teams have done against his team this season.

“I think they’re probably going to stack the box against us,” Keith said. “Of course, we didn’t get to play them in high school last year because they forfeited against us. In junior high, they just stacked the box. They had all 11 inside the box ready to go.”

As far as his team’s approach this week leading up to Friday night, Keith wants his team to focus on improving in every aspect, and to not look past this week’s opponent.

“We’ve got to make sure we do all things right,” Keith said. “We’ve got to finish blocks. We’ve got to hit the holes harder with the backs. We’ve got to regroup and get last week’s game out of our minds. We’ve got to keep working hard, and we can’t take this week off.

“It’s easy to take a week off when you’ve got a team you’re not as worried about, but we can’t afford to do that, not only for this week, but for the rest of the year as well.”

Kickoff for Friday’s game at Fred C. Hardke Field is at 7 p.m.