August 25, 2010 10:56:00 AM
The numbers should even out this week.
This also should be one of the few weeks this season when the Immanuel Christian football team has more bodies on the sidelines than its opponent.
That fact, coupled with the Rams'' moving from 11- to eight-man, should make for intriguing storylines when they take on Central Academy at 7 p.m. Friday in Macon.
Immanuel Christian opened its season last week with a 41-6 loss to Hatley, a Class 2A school in the Mississippi High School Activities Association. Central Academy went to Winnsboro, La., to beat Franklin Academy 20-6.
Immanuel Christian and Central Academy both play in the Mississippi Association for Independent Schools.
Even though his team allowed 41 unanswered points, Immanuel Christian second-year coach Shawn Gates said he liked what he saw from his players and coaches. He said his team, which dressed out 21 players, suffered from fatigue from about the second quarter on against Hatley, which fielded a roster of more than 40 players.
Michael Tate scored the only touchdown for the Rams, who lost 36-22 to the Vikings last season. But Gates said he saw things in his team that weren''t there last season, and he hopes to continue to build on them this week. He also praised Jeremy Davidson and Norris Harris for their performances against Hatley.
"We''re still pushing every day to get in shape," Gates said. "Monday was a conditioning day, and today (Tuesday) is going to be a conditioning day," Gates said. "Wednesday we will focus in on our plays. The good thing is that we will be able to get some of them rest and we will be able to rotate them a whole lot more."
The conditioning work should pay dividends this week and next week when Immanuel Christian returns to 11-man action against Carroll Academy. An eight-man game against Calhoun Academy follows on Sept. 10.
"I think we''re going to have a good week this week," Gates said. "The weeks before (the season opener) were rough because we had a lot of rain come in and we did not get to condition as much as we wanted to. This week we''re going to hit the conditioning hard and I feel we''re going to be where we need to be to play well and to have a successful game."
Central Academy coach Ronnie Sciple doesn''t know if his team will be able to deliver the faster tempo Gates expects. Instead, the Vikings likely will be content to keep the ball on the ground and eat up the clock.
Junior Cole Newman rushed for 191 yards and three touchdowns last week as Central Academy allowed Franklin Academy only one possession in the second half last week.
When you have an offensive with one 300-plus pounder Sciple''s son, Will, and two other linemen who tip the scales at well over 240 pounds, it''s natural to see why the Vikings want to rely on their rushing attack.
A grind-it-out affair also allows Central Academy to save its energy and to get the most from its 13-player roster. Eleven of those players are juniors and seniors, so the Vikings won''t dazzle anyone with their numbers.
Sciple also said quarterback Ferris McGuire won''t throw the ball all over the place like many eight-man teams that put up 60 and 70 points using the spread offense. But don''t be fooled because Central Academy can throw the football, and will if it has to.
Either way, the key will be getting everyone to support their teammates and to do their jobs to form a cohesive unit.
"If we don''t, it will be a long season," Sciple said. "Running the football has been our bread and butter for the past two years."
Sciple said the Vikings "played their game" Friday, even if it wasn''t the most attractive brand of action anyone has seen. His goal is to split carries more evenly between running backs like Cole Newman, Will Disbrow, Jay Jones, and Zak Cotton.
The Vikings will need to do that against the Rams because Sciple expects another tough game. Even though his team has won the past two meetings, he said the Rams will have the edge because of their greater depth.
"It has been this way for the last two years," Sciple said. "I had 15 one year with three freshmen, but that is just part of being at a small school. We get a couple of kids hurt and we could be in a bind quickly. We could go from being a decent football team to being below average. It is nice to have numbers. Don''t get me wrong. You get a whole lot more out of kids when they have to compete for the starting jobs."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.