While the other three Cecil County varsity football teams took to the gridiron Thursday night, Rising Sun and Bohemia Manor had to wait until Friday.
The Eagles host the Tigers at 7 p.m. in Bo Manor's Homecoming game.
On paper, No. 3 Rising Sun would seem the heavy favorite as the teams enter with reversed records (the Tigers are 5-1 and Bo Manor is 1-5), but coach Clem Vaughan is making sure his team does not approach the game that way.
“We don't talk about records. It's still Bo Manor, it's still a rivalry,” he said. “No matter what their record is, those kids always come prepared. They're tough and hard-nosed kids. We've got to play hard and play consistent.”
The Tigers have consistently been able to run the ball against their opponents this season. Eagles coach Vince Ricci knows the first step to upsetting Rising Sun is to stop its rushing attack.
“It's very tough to prepare for. You know what's coming, you can tell the kids what's coming, they just dare you to stop it,” he said. “Last year, we couldn't stop it and this year, we hope to. We have a couple of changes that we hope will work. As far as preparing, it's tough to get a look because not a lot of teams do that. We don't run the Wing-T, so asking our scout team to do that is definitely really, really tough.”
Ricci was Bo Manor's defensive coordinator last year when the Eagles fell 34-27 to the Tigers.
“I tell their coach all the time that it comes down to their offensive line firing off the ball. Their O-line gets after it,” Ricci said. “They're pretty big and they're very, very aggressive. They know who to block on every single play and they're looking to drive you off the ball. That's the difference. Their mentality is 'I want to drive you off the ball.' It seems like this year their alignments are a little bit different, but their plays are still the same.”
Like Rising Sun, Bo Manor runs a ground-and-pound offense. Vaughan couldn't help but notice the similarity.
“I saw them against Elkton very early and they were in shotgun, but they switched to I-[formation],” he said. “They possess the ball, they keep it. They pound the ball in there and keep you honest with a pass play here or there. It's really kind of similar to us except I-formation. They're ground-and-pound.”
Ricci also pointed out the similarity in what his team tries to do offensively.
“It's kind of like what Rising Sun wants to do. We need to really establish the run,” he said. “If we don't establish the run, then teams can get after you in the blitz and you can't do anything in the passing game. If we can't establish that line of scrimmage, then we're going to have a tough time like last week. We're challenging our offensive line this week. Watching the Rising Sun film, we showed them 'Hey, this is how an offensive line gets off the ball.' We really need to do that.”
Last week, the Eagles managed just six points in a 14-6 loss to No. 4 C.M. Wright. With only 19 players in uniform that week, Ricci couldn't have been happier with the effort he received defensively.
“You can't ask for much more from the kids. The couple times they did score, they had some short fields,” he said. “We really did all we can do. We talk about wanted to hold teams to under 17, so when you hold them to 14, that's a really good day at the offense for the defense.”
The Tigers enter on the three-game win streak, averaging 34 points per game over that span. Two weeks ago, All-County running back Noah Boyd returned from a knee injury suffered during the spring and has scored four touchdowns on just 14 carries since. Running backs Ben Ehrhart and Justin Brooks continue to receive the bulk of the rushes.
At 5-1 (3-1 Susquehanna), Rising Sun has itself in strong position to earn a postseason berth for the first time since 2006.
“We need to be a little more consistent with stuff,” Vaughan said, not looking past the upcoming game. “We're good hot out of the gates, but the second and third drive is just not as consistent. We need to take the silly things away, take the penalties away, that kind of stuff. The kids are learning every week. Hopefully we just keep fixing our mistakes and getting better.”
Follow Sean Grogan on Twitter: @Sean_CecilWhig