Red Devils ready for Bears, rematch of state title game
Mountain Pine head football coach Sam Counce has plenty to worry about this week.
The fact that his team will face off against Spring Hill, the team that the Red Devils (3-1, 2-0 South) defeated last year to claim the Eight-Man Small School state title, is just one of his concerns.
It is also homecoming.
“If it wasn’t homecoming, I’d probably feel pretty good,” he said. “It’s just, you know, it’s just a coach’s nightmare, you know. You don’t want to take anything away from the kids, but it’s such a distraction, you know, for a 17-, 18-year-old young man. And we’ve got to overcome that, and then we’re playing Spring Hill on top of it. … You know, that’s who we played in the championship last year, and they’re going to come gunning for us. So, we’ve got to have a good game. We’ve got to put all our distractions aside and get after it. That’s why I get paid the big bucks, I guess. That’s my job.”
The Bears (4-1, 3-0) run an offense similar to that of the Red Devils, but Counce said that they prefer to pass the ball more than his team does.
“They’ll run a little Wing-T, and they’ll run some one-back and doubles, and they try to throw it a little more than we do,” he said. “They’ve got a left-handed quarterback that’s pretty good. He played against us last year after their first team quarterback went out. They’ve also got a number 15 they try to get to get the ball to in situations. He’s a load. And they’ve got those receivers out there that are pretty, pretty precision guys. You know, I don’t think they’re real speed guys; they run really good routes.”
Mountain Pine is coming off a 5840 loss to Little Rock Hall, and while Counce is pleased with the way his team continued to battle against a team that played Class 6A football a year ago, he is concerned the loss could weigh on his team’s minds.
“My biggest concern is us just coming back from the loss last week and building on it, instead of taking it as a beating, you know what I mean, as something bad,” he said. “I think we got
a lot of positives out of playing Hall. And I’m trying to make the kids understand that, you know, we did some good things against them, even though we did lose. But, you know, it wasn’t that bad of a loss, if that makes sense. But they need to build on what happened and have confidence instead of feeling like they got beat up.”
Counce said that the biggest thing in last week’s game was the difference in size.
“They just kind of wore it out, wore us down with their size,” he said. “You know, you just keep having to go tackle a 230-pound guy, you know, and you’re about 150, 160, you know, i just wears you out. I think that was the biggest deal. They just leaned on us with their size, and we just, you know, couldn’t stand in there with them.”
One way that Counce is trying to get his team ready for the game is by pointing out that the Bears are ranked No. 1 while they are ranked No. 4.
“We’ve used that as a motivating factor, and I think that kids have bought into the fact that people think they’re better than us, you know,” he said. “That’s what we’ve got to go with as far being motivated. You’ve gotta find some reason why you want to win, and our kids have kind of bought into the fact of the rankings.”
Dayjon Matlock, who turned his ankle earlier in the season, is expected to be back to practice this week, and Jayden Walker is recovering well from a leg injury, Counce said.
“We’re in good shape physically,” he said.
Kickoff at Stanley May Field is set for 7 p.m.