September 18, 2009 8:35:00 AM
Coming off big wins last week, the Immanuel Christian and Victory Christian football teams will try to keep their momentum going tonight.
Immanuel (1-3) will play host to Winona Christian, while Victory Christian (4-0) will play host to Victory Baptist. Both games will start at 7 p.m.
Immanuel coach Shawn Gates, who earned his first career victory as a head coach last week, said everybody on the team, including the coaches, has been doing their part to try to help the team continue its winning ways.
"My father, Greg Gates, does a good job of pushing these kids," Gates said. "Every day at practice he asks, ''What are we?'' And the kids yell ''tough!''
"Tough is our mind-set. We are going to play until the whistle blows. We can be down, but we are always gonna fight."
Persevering through a 0-3 start has all been a matter of attitude for the Rams.
"My guys, from seventh grade up, have kept up and hit seniors on other teams," he said. "Even the little guys are stepping up and doing a tremendous job. We are in shape.
"We worked hard, stayed focused, tough, and we knew in our hearts a win was coming. We are a young team, and in the future we are going to be well set."
This week, Immanuel will have most of its boys back to take on a team Gates said is the best in the conference.
"We have 21 players for this game," Gates said. "That gives us some guys that can go in and give the starters breathers."
Immanuel has had trouble with injuries this season.
"I have had James Wriley, starting lineman, hurt," Gates said. "But the biggest problem is a lot of people have caught the flu."
Gates said his defense is looking good this week, and that defensive coach Daniel Merchant has done a really good job this year.
"I am thankful we have him aboard. He brought in some good sets and the kids respond to him well," Gates said.
Gates feels Winona Christian will focus on stopping running back Michael Tate. He will attempt to counter that strategy by throwing in different sets.
"Tate is going to be moved all around in different lineups," he said. "Tate knows coming into this game he''s got to step it up."
Whatever the outcome, Gates said the Rams will put their tough mentality to test tonight.
"If we execute well -- you never know," Gates said. "We might just come out on top with a win."
As for the Eagles, coach Chris Hamm hopes his team can continue to click at a high level.
Victory Christian has tested the high end of scoreboards this season, averaging nearly 64 points per game while only allowing only 50 points in four games.
Hamm said the defense and special teams have contributed to the scoring explosion, too.
"The score at the end of the game is a total team effort," he said. "We have got some good skill players this year."
Junior Landon Ellis leads the team with 14 touchdowns. Ellis has rushed for 377 yards on 14 carries, and has 309 receiving yards on nine catches.
He also has two defensive touchdowns and four interceptions.
"He just does a good job with the football. Every time he touches it he creates opportunities," Hamm said. "He seems to be in a groove right now. Landon has talent but is also working hard and reaping the benefits."
Running back Daylan Hairston (19 carries, 378 yards) has eight touchdowns.
"With the way eight-man football works, it takes more than one player to win, so we are lucky to have him" Hamm said. "Daylan is coming off of a great game."
Senior quarterback Parker Eaves has passed for 621 yards and has thrown for 12 touchdowns.
"The line has done a good job of giving Parker time to throw," Hamm said. "He has done a great job throwing the ball for us, and only has one interception."
Hamm said Victory Christian''s defense is also creating a lot of the points.
"Our defensive coach has done a good job at teaching how to put on pressure, and, as a result, we have created turnovers in the passing game," he said. "Last game we picked up some fumbles. We have players making plays when they have the opportunity."
The Eagles are creating these opportunities because they try to create turnovers every game.
"In eight-man football you will give up some points," he said. "If you win the turnover battle you are ahead."
Hamm expects Victory Christian to be tested tonight against another high-scoring offense.
"Their defense has been giving up points, so we are hoping to take advantage of opportunities," Hamm said.