With losses to top-ranked 6A Maryville and sixth-ranked 5A Knoxville Catholic, Cleveland has found itself on an early season slide Raider head coach Ron Crawford is looking to end sooner rather than later, as the team sets its sights on an undefeated rival in the 5-AAA Ooltewah Owls.
“I certainly hope this game has a different weight to it. But, the reality of the playoff system now is that every game counts,” expressed Crawford.
“One of our goals is to win our league, and to achieve that we need district wins. We need a win, don’t matter who it is. We need a victory. We did play harder last week, but we are still coaching effort and that makes it hard to coach execution.”
The Raiders are coming off a disappointing 41-26 loss to Knox Catholic last Friday, when they gave up over 400 rushing yards to the Fighting Irish and shot themselves in the foot with over 120 yards in penalties on 17 flags.
“Obviously, our 17 penalties to their five means we need to do a much better job of directing our kids, because that is far to big a discrepancy to have, penalty-wise. That is the most, by far, in my 26 years of coaching that I have seen in a single game,” Crawford stated.
“The holding penalties really hurt us, so we have put an emphasis this week on moving our feet more and getting our hands clear to clear up those issues.”
Penalties weren’t the only lesson Cleveland took out of its Week 1 loss to Catholic. Crawford said the team has focused this week on putting a premium on execution on both sides of the ball. Route running and getting the ball off on time have also received special attention during this week’s practices.
Crawford went on to explain that most of the feelings of disappointment and frustration brewing in the Cleveland locker room stem from a lack of on-field execution, and not necessarily from a pair of hard-fought losses against top-notch teams.
It isn’t all doom and gloom in the Raider camp, though.
“We feel our protection is one of our good things so far. For the last two weeks we have protected the quarterback, and we have made strides to get our run game going. We still have to get more physical on the line of scrimmage, and we have to get our running backs more involved in running the football,” explained the head coach.
Unfortunately for Cleveland, the competition isn’t going to get any easier this week as Ooltewah enters the contest with a 2-0 record and is coming off a big win against seventh-ranked 4A East Hamilton.
“Ooltewah looks like a very athletic football team. They are just as athletic as us and a little bit bigger. They have three really good tailbacks that they feed. Then, they’ll throw deep balls and screens. But, they lean on those tailbacks heavily,” Crawford said.
It will provide another chance for a defense that has been plagued by big run games to step up and show some improvement moving forward.
Overall, Crawford urges patience as the team is still adapting to an overhaul that is looking to redefine the team that calls Benny Monroe Stadium home.
“We are still working on fixing us. There isn’t anything wrong with schemes. Part of the problem here in the past has been too much change, head coaches, new systems all kinds of drastic changes for the program. We understand that what we are doing now, is who we are going to be. We are just going to focus on getting better at it,” he stated.
Kick off for Cleveland at Ooltewah is scheduled for 7:30 Friday night.