Lions look to make adjustments in time for Flint River
by Chris Goltermann
By CHRIS GOLTERMANN
Success in high school football, whether week-to-week or minute-to-minute, is all about adjustments. The right ones can turn around a game or even a season.
Which is why Trinity Christian was busy on Wednesday making ones in preparation for a trip to Flint River this week. A 41-26 loss to Terrell Academy in last week’s season opener was an eye-opener for a more inexperienced Lions roster than 2013.
But it wasn’t the type of performance that would cause a coach to go back to square one either.
Most of this week’s preparation has been minor tweaks. Pulling a guard on an offensive formation, moving a running back two steps off the ball, a repositioning of one or two defensive players — all with hopes of getting the better of a Flint River team that survived its opener against The Heritage School by the hairs of its chinny, chin chin.
The Wildcats made a goal-line stop on a potential game-winning two-point conversion try by the Hawks in the final 30 seconds to hold on to a 13-12 victory on the road.
It was the type of game, however, that Flint River may thrive in under first-year coach Josh Daher while going back to a philosophy more toward smashmouth football.
The Wildcats, who won three state championships from 2004-08 over a string of five consecutive appearances in the finals, spread the field more last year under head coach Jason Carrera’s passing game.
Last season, a veteran Trinity lineup held off Flint River 23-15 in the school’s first on-campus home football game.
As for this year’s Wildcats team, Trinity head coach Chris Hanson sees Daher, a former FRA assistant, putting his own stamp on the program while bringing back some of the “ground-and-pound” mentality that proved successful against Heritage while running pro sets and a bit of the wishbone.
“Coach Daher is a good coach and you can see that he’s brought some different things than just what they were doing last year. They’re real solid on offense and defense,” Hanson said. “For us, it’s the next opportunity.”
Flint River put together a 1-2 punch in the backfield between the powerful running of senior Nathan Strickland (6-0, 190) and the speed of James Murphy, a 5-9, 140-pound sophomore who raced for a 60-yard score. Should Trinity try to stack the box, the Wildcats may put its hopes on senior quarterback David Scott Chester (5-9, 160), who is trying to fill a hole left by standout Will Couch.
Hanson described Strickland — one of nine key returning seniors — as “a burner.”
“We know he’s fast. The biggest thing is to contain him and keep him pinned up. That’s one of the challenges of this game,” he continued. “But it’s not just about stopping one guy. They’re a good football team and we’ll have to be read to play.”
Turnovers in the Lions’ end of the field hampered last week’s opener. Despite finishing just minus-1 among turnover-ratio, their own miscues were all too often turned into points by Terrell Academy, which doubled its lead to 19-7 at halftime with a touchdown in the closing minute of the second quarter.
“I think they understand that we can’t turn the ball over. I don’t think giving up 41 points is indicative of the style that [defensive coordinator] J.P. [Weaver] runs,” Hanson said. “We want to eliminate the penalties and I think we didn’t have that many last week. It just follows our philosophy during this summer of being as efficient as possible.”
Hanson and offensive coordinator Bruce Seals, who are teaming up for the first time this year with Hanson handling the play-calling duties, have also continued to tweak things, most of it minor in a system that mixes the wing-T with spread formations. In his first start at quarterback, senior Grant Hurston threw for three touchdowns, including a pair that went to top returning receiver Christian Downs.
“I was proud of the way our guys competed,” Hanson said. “We’ve had a great week of practice and I think our young men are ready to get back under the lights on Friday.