Gibbs at Morristown East — Friday, 7:30 p.m. — Burke-Toney Stadium
East will be looking to celebrate Homecoming in a big way on Friday night at Burke-Toney Stadium. And what better way to celebrate that with its first victory of the season when the Hurricanes play host to Knox Gibbs.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Burke-Toney Stadium after the queen is crowned in pregame ceremonies.
First year coach Caleb Slover has seen his team improve each week through three close losses that have come by a total of 14 points and is hoping his team can fare better against the Eagles.
“I can’t question the effort our guys have given so far,” said the coach. “They’ve played very hard all the way through. But we’ve made those little mistakes that can get you beat and we have to cut those out.
“I’ve said before that what we need to do is learn how to win. That’s the big thing right now.”
Although Gibbs is a quality opponent, it appears, at least on paper, East should have a much better chance at victory. All three opponents so far have been unbeaten when they faced the Hurricanes and two of them remain that way.
But the Eagles come into the game at 1-2 for the season and are coming off a 62-17 pounding at the hands of powerful South-Doyle last Friday.
Gibbs opened the year with a 32-21 setback to Halls before blasting winless Seymour 41-23 in week two.
“They’re a typical wing-T, triple-option team,” said Slover of the Eagles. “They’re really big and physical up front and their quarterback does a really, really good job of handling the football.”
The Eagles’ offense is built around quarterback Troy Davis. In the victory over Seymour, Davis ran for 197 yards including three long touchdown runs and passed for another. Gibbs had over 400 yards on the ground in the victory.
Davis added another long touchdown on the Eagles’ first possession against South-Doyle and Gibbs battled the state’s No. 7 Class 5A team closely until the final minutes of the first half.
“They have a big fullback and the other backs have speed,” Slover said. “So far, they haven’t thrown the football a whole lot but he does a good job when they do put it in the air.”
The coach said the thing his defense has to do against Gibbs is play assignment football. “We have to be very, very disciplined on defense. Everybody has to do their job or they’ll bust big plays on us.
“In other words, whoever has the quarterback has to have the quarterback and whoever has the pitch back has to have the pitch back. We can’t chase the football. We have to do what we’re supposed to do or the other part of the option will eat us up.”
Defensively, the Eagles will run a three-man front. “Their nose man is really big and one of their ends is really a standout up front. They get a lot of pressure and really harass the quarterback. They have athletic linebackers and they have speed in the secondary.
“They’re a good football team,” said Slover. “So, we’re facing another well-rounded team.”
Slover said his team is gaining experience each week. “It’s game four and we’ve got enough game time in to not classify ourselves as young anymore. We’ve got game experience, not a lot of it, but we do have some now.
“We need to start turning the corner as far as cutting down on mistakes and start doing the things we have to do to win,” he added. “We’ve got to learn how to play for four quarters.”
The coach went on to say. “We’ve done some good things and played pretty well at times in all of our games. But we seem to have something happen that seems to kind of suck the wind out of us.
“That’s what I mean by learning how to win. When something like that happens, we have to come right back and respond to it. We have to know how to be disciplined and go make a play when it’s crucial for us to make a play.”
He added, “We have to learn to get off the field on third down. We have to get stops when we need to.
“Right now, we’re at the point that we realize we’re good enough to win ball games,” he said. “The kids aren’t down, they’re not hanging their heads. Now we’re at the point where at those critical times, we’ve got to stand up and make plays.’
He said, “Right now, we’re not making those plays at critical times. We’ve got to keep our composure and learn how to go compete and make that play when it’s time to make it.
“Once we step up and make plays, we’ll win ball games,” Slover closed. “When we do that and understand how to do it, I think that’s where the learning how to win comes in. We almost did it last week when we came back down the field with 45 seconds left. We’re getting there.”