It may be a tall task for the Hallsville Indians to “act like they’ve been there before” heading into their Class 2 state semifinal game Saturday.
Under first-year head coach Justin Conyers, who had plenty of success as the first head coach in Battle history, the Indians have had a turnaround year with 10 wins. Times weren’t always so hopeful for Hallsville, however, as the entire decade before this season featured scattered postseason victories and little consistency season-to-season.
What Conyers has brought to the program is a true belief among the players that they can compete with anybody they line up against. With an acute attention to fundamental details, sharp game plans, and a modern playbook, Conyers has quickly turned an unimaginative offense into a force capable of adapting to multiple different game styles.
However, if there is a way to beat Hallsville’s offense, led by dynamic senior quarterback Jake Ashburn, it’s to press the wide receivers with big, physical corners. Hallsville runs a run-pass option (RPO) offense and likes to run to set up the passing game, so taking away quick throws will either force Hallsville to continue running the ball or make Ashburn hang in the pocket and throw the ball down the field.
The RPO is effective because opposing defenses have to take into account a multitude of different possibilities each play.
For instance, Ashburn may hand the ball off to his running back. Or he could pull the ball back to hit a receiver on a slant route. Or he could use his athleticism and run the ball himself.
Defenses have to be able to react quickly, so taking away the short passing game as much as they can by pressing Hallsville’s wide receiving corps, led by senior Emmitt Carlos, is probably Clark County’s best route.
Shutting down Hallsville’s passing game does not guarantee a win for Clark County, however. Last week, Christian pressed its big corners at the line of scrimmage and Hallsville threw the ball only twice. The Indians put up 40 points, powered by six rushing touchdowns.
The dedication to the run game, when Christian made the game close on multiple occasions, showed that Conyers knows his personel. While there were a number of runs that got stuffed near the line of scrimmage, eventually the Christian defense wore down and the floodgates opened.
Senior starting running back Cooper Crane praised Conyers after the game and said that he is more confident going into games this season because the game plans are so well thought-out. There has only been once all season that the Indians’ offense has been shut down , and that was at the hands of the mighty 12-0 Blair Oaks in early October. The Indians have rattled off six straight wins since, against a number of quality opponents.
The Indians will look to keep rolling against Clark County at 1 p.m. Saturday at Hallsville.