Tigers on the road at Bridgeport
ELKINS — “No rest for the weary” may seem like the appropriate phrase for Elkins, which will play its third straight highly-ranked Class AA opponent tonight when the Tigers visit No. 5 Bridgeport.
A week ago, EHS (2-4) dropped its fourth consecutive game of the season at Robert C. Byrd, 21-0. It was another frustrating night for Elkins, as not only did they lose the game, but also lost two more starters in the progress.
That makes four first-line players who have gone down this season for Tiger head coach Evan Hott, which is something he admits is hard to overcome.
“It’s really part of the battle you have to face,” Hott said. “When under 10 percent of the male population in your school plays football, it’s tough.
“We can’t make excuses, though. We have to continue to work with our players every day and make sure they are becoming better on and off the field.”
One area Elkins has been consistent in is on the defensive side of the ball. For the second week in a row — against a high-powered offense (Fairmont Senior and RCB) — the unit was able to hold the opposition below their scoring average.
The Tigers held the Eagles to 12 points below their seasonal norm.
Hott’s assessment of last week’s defensive performance was mixed.
“I thought our defense played OK, considering we lost two more starters,” he said. “Watching film on Byrd, I thought we could do some good things on defense, and we hung in there.
“But we can’t continue to give up the home-run ball, that’s hurt us all season.”
Senior linebacker Daniel Romans leads the Tigers with 57 tackles on the year. His classmate, Jeremiah Coger, is second with 43 stops.
The Tigers’ offensive attack has struggled, though.
Producing no points against RCB, Elkins was shut out for the first time since 2014.
The Tigers have tried different wrinkles the last couple of weeks, even unveiling a spread offensive attack to the scheme against the Eagles to try and shake things up a bit. The change of pace worked for a while, as the Tiger passing game went 13 of 15 in the air and put RCB on its heels to start the game.
“I thought it was a good change of pace,” Hott said. “Our offensive coordinator Cody (Knavenshue) thought we would catch them by surprise and I thought it did for a while.”
Even with the new wrinkle, Elkins still made the errors (turnovers and penalties) that derailed drives and took away scoring opportunities .
“We have to be more mentally focused,” Hott said. “We are doing the same negative things week after week, and that shows a lack of mental focus. We can’t take our reps in practice for granted as they prepare us for the game.”
This week’s opponent, Bridgeport, had perhaps its best outing of the season in a 49-16 dismantling of North Marion last week. The Indians average 36 points per game, and will look for success the same way they have for decades — with a bruising ground game that will come straight at you.
Jake Bowen leads the way with 1,193 yards rushing and 22 touchdowns on the season.
“It’s typical Bridgeport. They are a physical, run heavy football team,” Hott said. “The Bowen kid is a stud, and he’s gotten noticeably faster from last year.”
To pull the upset, Hott said his team will have to dig deep and find personal resolve to get the job done.
“It took a lot of mental toughness to have a full week of practice,” he said. “We haven’t won since August. With all the adversity we’ve faced, we’ll get to see what type of character we have on this team.”
The Tigers and Indians kick off from Wayne Jamison Field at 7 p.m.