Tuesday, October 07, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Bison host biggest rival

Leader sportswriter

The Carlisle Bison will face their toughest test of the season this Friday against their archrival Hazen, the No. 3 team in Class 2A, in a 7 p.m. kickoff at Hazen.

Carlisle (2-3, 2-1) is coming off one of its better games this season, beating Marvell 54-12 last week at Fred C. Hardke Field. The Bison rushed for 455 yards last week, and winning the battle up front is going to be key if the Bison hope to hang with the undefeated Hornets (5-0, 3-0), who also have a strong run game.

“They don’t have the speed that England had,” said Carlisle coach Jack Keith, “but they’re still pretty fast, and they’re bigger and stronger than England was. So, yeah, I’d say it’s the best team we’ll see so far.”

Carlisle ended up blowing out Hazen late last year and won by the final score of 40-12. It was one of the most physical games played all year, regardless of classification, and Keith is expecting another dogfight, especially in the trenches.

“One thing we were real proud about last year was I think we were more physical,” Keith said, “and that’s something that we’re going to have to do this year. We’re going to have to beat them up front, and it’s going to be a physical, hard-fought game again.”

Hazen is a run-first team on offense like Carlisle, and the Hornets will do it with several backs. Tailback Trenton Mosby (5-8, 185) is the lead back in the Hornets’ two-back Pistol offense.

The senior, who has 4.6 speed, earned All-State honors last year after rushing for nearly 1,300 yards and 14 TDs. Logan Penn (5-6, 165), a junior with 4.4 speed, ran for more than 900 yards last season as a sophomore, and has contributed even more to the Hornets’ backfield this season.

Another back that will get a portion of the carries is Lucas Tenison (5-8, 170). He ran for more than 500 yards last year at fullback. Hazen doesn’t have a ton of depth up front, but the players they do have may be, as a unit, the biggest and strongest in the conference.

In addition, Keith said the Hornet linemen are quick for their size, which means they get off the ball in a hurry.

Defensively, the Hornets line up primarily in a 4-3, but they put nine in the box in last year’s game against the Bison, and Keith said he expects his offense will see the same look on Friday.

“They had nine in the box all game last year,” Keith said, “and I expect the same. They’ll stack the box and they’ve got those big linemen that’ll hold you up and let those quick linebackers fly around.

“So we’ve got to do a good job of getting a push up front, pushing those linemen into those linebackers’ laps, and we’ll go from there.”

One publication has Hazen favored to win Friday by as much as 35 points, and even though Hazen is the heavy favorite on paper, head Hornet Joe Besancon expects a more competitive game than what’s been predicted by other publications.

“Everybody thinks Carlisle’s not Carlisle, but I guarantee when they come over here Friday night that they’ll be ready for us,” said Besancon. “I tell you what, both towns really get into it. It’s about bragging rights.

“It’s not so much the players themselves, but the older generation – those folks really get back and forth and pick at each other about it.”

The scary thing about Hazen is it hasn’t even played up to its potential yet. Besancon said a lot of his players, like Mosby and Tenison, were hampered by injuries early in the season, but he said those two along with everyone else are just now getting back to full strength.

As far as the rivalry itself, both coaches know what to expect, and know what it means to beat the other team, but Besancon said his team is going to approach it like any other week and that he doesn’t want his players to put too much focus on the rivalry.

“Our approach isn’t going to change,” Besancon said. “It’s another football game, another football team, and we have to go about it like we do every week and not get caught up in all the hoopla that’s going on with television stations and radio stations and different things that want to broadcast the game.

“Our job Friday night is to play a football game and not get caught up in anything else.”

This will be Keith’s first game against Hazen as the head Bison, but he knows what this game means between the two schools and communities.

“Especially when you’re dealing with rivalry games, previous records go out the window,” Keith said. “You play with a lot of emotion and it’s a one-game season for us right now, and it’s going to be a tough one.

“It’s a one-game season now, and it doesn’t matter what you do all year as long as you beat Hazen. When I took the job here, the first thing I heard was you have to beat Hazen. That’s the first thing you hear about when you get here. It’s important. It’s the biggest game of the year, and it’s a must win.”