September 8, 2017 10:19:45 AM
Kris Pickle understands the grind of a high school football season leads to injuries.
But the New Hope High School coach didn't imagine his team would be hit by some many bumps, bruises, and setbacks three weeks into the 2017 campaign.
The latest round of injuries will keep at least three starters, including senior running back Tyran Reed, out for a game against Shannon (1-2) at 7 tonight.
"We have had him for only one week," Pickle said. "We had him for four rushes last week. I think it is like all of a sudden when you don't have him it just shocks you. Now, you don't say it is what you are used to, but you have a little more confidence going into it because you know you have some guys who are capable of doing it."
The absence of Reed, who Pickle said could be out for up to three weeks, is frustrating because he returned after missing the season opener against Forest and played an integral role in a victory against West Lauderdale. Last week, Reed injured his knee and didn't factor into the scoring in a 35-28 victory against Houston.
Still, Pickle doesn't relish the thought of playing an extended period of time without Reed, who he said is the team's most physical downhill runner. Without Reed, he said the Trojans will have to go with younger running backs who aren't as big or bruising. One of those backs, sophomore Braylen Miller, had 10 carries for 82 yards last week. His effort complemented the performance of senior quarterback Kyree Fields, who rushed for 115 yards and three touchdowns. Fields also threw a touchdown pass.
Pickle praised the play of Fields, who split time at quarterback with sophomore Ryan Burt. Unfortunately, he said the absence of Reed makes it tougher to mix quarterbacks because he wants to try to balance the offense between running and throwing the ball as much as possible.
"We have had to lean on him more running the ball," Pickle said of Fields. "We haven't really wanted to, but we have had to. He also has made some throws. I think he is getting more comfortable at that position. You can tell in the passing game."
Pickle said he would like to see Fields develop even more confidence to stay in the pocket more to throw the football. It is a fine line, though, because he said he doesn't want to take "the athlete" part of Fields' game away from him and limit what he can do. He said Fields' ability to play off his instincts allows him to play faster, which usually translates to good things.
Pickle hopes that will continue this week. If the offense struggles, he said the Trojans will have to keep leaning on a defense that has played more physically than last season. Unfortunately, injuries also have hit the defense. His hope is that group accepts the challenge and does its part by getting stops to give the football back to the offense in prime position to score.
"We will be fine on offense," Pickle said. "We got some short fields last week. I think we had almost 400 yards of offense, which is pretty encouraging. It is two weeks in a row we have had pretty good offensive outputs.
"The defense started out flat last week. We didn't play with a whole lot of energy. There was a whole lot of standing around and watching. We have to come out and play with a lot more energy and a lot more effort right off the bat. If we don't, they are going to shock us. Hopefully, they learn from last week that you just can't come out and play without any emotion."
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Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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