After two weeks of film showing losses to state-ranked teams (top-ranked 6A Maryville and 9th-ranked 5A Knoxville Catholic) the team was able to view some film of a hard-fought win over District 5-AAA rival Ooltewah.
According to head coach Ron Crawford that afforded the team a great opportunity to focus not only on what they are doing right, but also show the attitude that the coaching staff has been trying to install in this next generation of Raider football.
“I think we were able to take our victory and use it as a great learning tool. We were able to show the film and show our kids how we go about grading great effort,” explained Crawford.
We’ve already viewed plenty of film where the team has been beaten and we’ve gotten on them for effort. It’s probably a better teachable situation for us right now: showing them what they did well and at the same time saying here’s what we can do better.”
Luckily, the coaching staff has yet to see any “big-win hangover” on the practice field. After a more relaxed practice Tuesday the team has refocused on this week’s opponent, Chattanooga Central.
Coming into the season, the Crawford administration broke down the season into three sub-seasons; the August season, the September season and the October season. Now, the team turns the page on the next chapter, which starts with the Purple Pounders.
“Obviously, it’s a little looser and happier locker room, thank goodness. It’s been a much happier coach’s office. I think these boys are looking at this like August season’s over; now let’s start September season,” Crawford stated.
But, this new “season” won’t get off to a win without going through a hungry Chattanooga Central team that is still gunning for its first win of the season and would like nothing more than to do it in front of a home crowd.
Crawford said the matchup will present some unique challenges for Cleveland’s Raiders as the Pounder will feature a number of looks on both sides of the football.
“Chattanooga Central is athletic as anybody. If it were a track meet we would be in trouble. I honestly don’t know exactly what to expect. They run some ‘Wing T’ and some ‘Double Slot’ — that Georgia Tech look — running an option and then they’ll go into some spread. We are having to prepare for three different things. Defensively, we’ve seen them line up in a 3-4 and some kind of a split-4, some four-hands-down deal,” said the coach.
The good news for Cleveland is that leaders are starting to emerge on the field. The team is rallying around some key figures and is coming together as a unit on the field.
“Our guys have confidence in CJ Bryant. What CJ has to worry about is CJ. He still needs to watch his body language and that’s gotten a lot better. We need him to mature and be a leader for us. Our guys will follow him,” said Crawford.
“The team also has confidence in Austin Herink. He has stepped up and become more of a vocal leader. And, we can see the guys on film who have stepped up and play hard. Those are our silent leaders. Those are the guys, effort-wise, we know we can count on. Players like Kimsey Bell, Dalton McDonald, Trent Crouch and Koran Kennedy. Those guys just give super effort each and every play regardless of the score.”
Going into Friday, the Raiders still have some areas of focus; particularly in the turnover and penalty departments that have plagued the team in its past two matchups.
“Last Friday was a sloppily played game on both sides of the ball by both teams. Yeah, there are things we did better. There were still far too many penalties (23 combined). Turnovers on both sides were big. They (Ooltewah) made more mistakes than we did, and bottom line is whether it’s NFL, college or high school, it’s easier to lose a game than win one,” Crawford explained.
The Raider running attack saw signs of life against the Owls, but the team still has a long way to go to get the ground game where it wants it, according to the coaching staff.
Crawford is encouraged by special teams improvements, which he states he has seen every week. Going into the Chattanooga Central game, he feels it could be an area where the team could gain an advantage this week.
Cleveland takes the field at Chattanooga Central at 7:30 Friday night.