CENTRALIA — It is Friday night and the Centralia High School Panthers are leading the Monroe City High School Panthers 14-0 at the half, but there is still work to be done. As the crowd watches Centralia’s marching band perform and the team catches its breath, Erle Bennett is talking with assistant coach Jim Newsted and the coaching staff to make corrections to their game.
Once the coaches enter the room, blocking is the first issue to be addressed.
“You have to get off the ball. Flat out you have got to get off the ball,” Bennett tells his team. “That guy is going harder than you are because you think, ‘Well I’m going to be able to jump out here and get in his way.’”
Bennett speaks to his ball carriers: “You guys have got to quit bouncing off. You’ve got to run your feet through contact,” he says.
Little adjustments are the important issue for this game. With a healthy lead and a lackluster opponent, it is easier for Bennett to, “get the players refocused on what they need to do.”
If the team is down at halftime, it is a different story. “I feel like sometimes if you’re behind, you’ve gotten punched in the face, and you don’t need to come into the locker room and punch them in the face,” Bennett says. “You can take care of those things on Monday.” However, Bennett says, “It’s usually a lot easier to get on them if they’re winning.”
The rousing speeches given by Jon Voight and Denzel Washington are not on the agenda for Bennett. Senior and wide receiver Nathan Hann clarifies, “They’re not hardcore motivational speeches, but they’re ‘get out there and get the job done.’”
After the coaches have said their piece, it is up to the team to take their advice to the field. Before they can do that, though, Bennett offers his best Varsity Blues speech.
“Guys, we’ve got to win this half," Bennett said. "Take personal responsibility for what you’re doing and win this half.”
Centralia shut out Monroe City 33-0.