September 24, 2010 8:34:00 AM
CRAWFORD -- East Oktibbeha High School''s football team didn''t envision being 0-5 at this point in the season.
The Titans didn''t expect their defense to struggle the way it has, either.
East Oktibbeha enters tonight''s match against Noxapater (2-3, 1-2) giving up an average of 27.4 points per game, and the team''s propensity for giving up early scores has affected its offense''s play.
One of three winless teams in Class 1A Region 3, the Titans are searching for the cure-all for their defense.
"I''ve got young guys, so some of the struggles we expected," Titans head coach Randy Brooks said. "We''ve got (defensive tackle) Monte Horsley, whose having to score double figure tackles in each game. We''re just not stopping anybody right now."
Brooks said his linebackers must improve their play if the defense hopes to improve. East Oktibbeha graduated a pair of linebacker last season, and Brooks knew first-time starters like Davalyn Bell could struggle. With the team dangerously thin at the position, Brooks had to move fullback Lexie Edwards to linebacker.
And the road doesn''t get any easier for the Titans, who will face a spread offense tonight. Noxapater uses a spread offense similar to that of West Oktibbeha, which will put pressure on the Titans'' defensive backs.
However, Noxapater has a solid ground game that averages 7.35 yards per carry.
That''s troubling news for a defense that will be without junior Arthur Gillesepie (knee) and defensive lineman Jeff Turnipseed (turf toe). Lexie Edwards is probable, though he''s been limited in practice due to swelling on his ankle.
"With turf toe, that''s one of those injuries you never really get over," Brooks said of Turnipseed''s timetable for recovery. "Having those guys out is going to hurt."
Rocky starts isn''t new to the current crop of Titans, who went 1-10 in 2008 after winning their first game. Brooks said players haven''t dissented or quit on each other, and they sense a turnaround is near.
"This is a young veteran group," Brooks said. "They''ve been through it and know what it takes to get out of it. Just a few lucky breaks and we can easily be 4-1."
To help the defense, Brooks will look to Fair and quarterback Chris Hunter to spark the offense and running game. Brooks wants to control more of the clock to avoid playing from behind.
"Our biggest problem is, when we get down we have to pass," he said. "That was the problem Friday night, being down 14-0. We''ll pass if we have to, but I''d rather have ball control."
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