Blue Devil football overcoming consistent seasons of close games

Published 7:00 am Saturday, June 22, 2019

Football, like all sports, is a game defined by thin margins, and for the Pearl River Central varsity team those margins weren’t favorable this past season.

“We were 4-7 and we lost 3 football games that were really close,” Head Coach Jacob Owen said.

The sport is filled with formations and schemes that vary wildly on both sides of the ball.

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That mental aspect of knowing how to interpret a set up and respond accordingly as a team is difficult to teach. Owen said this is especially true with younger age groups.

To overcome that obstacle, Owen said players run the same systems all the way down to the 7th grade.

This allows athletes to join the varsity squad with some knowledge beforehand of how the system works, and what roles there are within the scheme.

“I thought our kids did a good job of grasping what we wanted them to do from a strategic point,” Owen said.

“But I don’t think we understood last season the mentality it takes to win tough high school football games.”

The mindset and confidence necessary to be successful are key aspects in any team’s arsenal, but for the Blue Devils those weapons seemed to be missing before some games.

“When you come into a place that’s struggling, confidence is important,” Owen said.

“You need to believe in yourself and our kids were lacking that. When we get into the ball game we realize that we can win, but you need to have that mentality going in.”

That being said, a source of confidence for the team was their running game. The Blue Devils are committed to running the ball, and as such do the best to stop any team who tries to do the same.

“We were fairly consistent in our running game throughout the year,” Owen said.

“I thought the defense got better every week, and it doesn’t matter what level, the team that runs the ball and who stops it wins.”

The reason for this focus on the run game is multifaceted. The ability to pound the rock is essential in shortening the game, basically lessening the amount of possessions by each team.

This is beneficial because it keeps the opponent’s offense on the sideline where it can’t do any damage, while the offense tires out the opposing defense with repeated rushing attacks.

Not only that, but in situations where a team is in the lead and the game is nearing its end, running the ball is the perfect solution because it keeps the clock ticking and the opposing offense off the field.

“It helps us shorten the game, control the clock and put points on the board,” Owen said.

“You have to be able to run it at some point and if you can’t do that you’re giving the other team more opportunities.”

The team was able to be consistent in this manner even with a young, inexperienced squad.

Owen said this is due to the staff trying to make the practices and training sessions as game-like as possible.

“We tried to make practices pretty tough and training sessions tough,” Owen said.

“We try to create a tough environment, but there’s no way to replicate Friday night. That’s something that comes with experience.”

Owen said the best way for his players to learn is to be thrown in the fire and get knocked down a few times before the light bulb comes on, but that when it does it’s a great day to be a coach.