Crawford said he and the Cleveland staff have done all they can do to get the Raiders ready to face the perennially tough Blue Tornado. If Cleveland is not ready, he does not want it to be on the backs of the coaches.
“We don’t have any choice at this point, we’ve got to be ready. Obviously, we’re going through our minds in our meetings going over checklists of what we’ve not covered and what we have covered,” he said. “I think at this time of year just about every football team is going through that list.”
With everything checked off as far as what Cleveland needs to do offensively and defensively from the coaches’ perspective, it also becomes the responsibility of the Blue Raiders themselves to pick it up. They must put what they have learned in practice to practice and open the new season on a strong note. Ready or not. Crawford said, the football will be kicked off tonight at 7:30.
“It doesn’t matter (if we are ready or not), we are playing Thursday night whether we’re ready or not. I think our kids are anxious and I think our kids are excited. I think having this type of opener lends itself to maybe a little bit more concentration and focus throughout the weeks as you prepare,” said Crawford. “I think we’ve got a lot of experienced players on our football team. I’ll be really surprised if we’re not mentally focused and ready to play. I hope if there are any mistakes, it’s stuff coaching staff-wise we forgot to do. I hope our kids will relax and play football.”
The McCallie offense will present the new and improved version of the classic Triple Option offense. Crawford said the Tornado will set the tight end stacked inside almost directly behind the offensive tackle in a pistol formation with a dive back directly behind the quarterback. A pair of wide receivers will split out and a “motion back” will slide through for pitchouts.
“He is also a receiver, kind of their slash guy,” said Crawford. They can present formations to your defense that you have to respond to. We have to make sure we make the right checks and we get lined up correctly just to give ourselves a chance.”
When the Raiders are on offense, they will be looking at the Blue Tornado’s 3-4 set on defense much like the formation used by Wofford (University). Crawford said there will be someone after the quarterback on every play.
“I’ve coached it before. We will see four-man pressure and seven droppers. It will become a 4-3 in some fashion that we also anticipate times. They will also drop eight and only bring three. Both defenses are a little bit unique and both are challenging,” said the coach.
“The thing I think they do good is their formations. They have rule breakers for us defensively by ‘formation-ing’ us. They can create a pitch back in motion from any formation they want. The challenge for us is going to be making sure we’ve got the right guy on the dive man, quarterback and pitch man.”
The Blue Tornado will present a quality game plan set up with quality athletes according to the Cleveland coach. The Blue Raiders opened against Maryville last year and have another difficult path to begin 2013.
“I think not only them (McCallie) having quality players, but the type of offense and defense they run makes an even greater challenge for us to prepare on a Week Zero Thursday night,” Crawford stated. “We’ve got a challenge, Maryville last year and McCallie this year. They can’t say we back away.”
Starting off the season with adversaries on the scale of McCallie can work for the good or the detriment of a team in rebuild mold. Crawford said the Blue Raiders went through many ups and downs last season with the biggest of the downs being a failure to reach the playoffs. With that in mind, he said Cleveland will go one game at a time, playing a series of one-game seasons.
“I think the great lesson all of us veterans and coaching staff should remember is, we dealt with that (fragile psyche) last season. We had played nine ballgames and we had been on a four-game winning streak at one time. We lost a couple of close ones and we go into the last ballgame knowing we’ve got one game to win to get into the playoffs,” Crawford recalled.
“It’s a series of one game (each time out). It’s a series of weeks. We play McCallie on Thursday, our focus has got to be there. Regardless of the outcome, there are nine games left to play. But really, all we know is we’ve got Cookeville the next week. It’s a one-game season. We’ve got McCallie this week and nothing else really matters. Let’s go to class this week, let’s takes tests this week, let’s prepare for McCallie. Let’s deal with the outcome and then let’s prepare for our next opponent.