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Coach Josh Spencer and his Upper Scioto Valley Rams will look to start their season anew and pick up that elusive first win of the season Friday night against county and conference foe Ridgemont.
The Rams open up Northwest Central Conference play when they travel to Ridgemont to play the 3-1 Gophers. The game, Spencer said, will be a new start to his team’s 0-4 season.
“We’ve been focusing more this week on our league play. We’re focusing on starting a new season with playing Ridgemont and getting into our league schedule,” Spencer said. “We’re forgetting about what happened in those first four games and focusing on what we can do in league play.”
To pick up that first league win, Spencer feels it’s his defense that will have to step up and do the job to hold back the Golden Gophers’ triple option offense.
“That’s the key for us, that we have to step up defensively. (Ridgemont) has a big fullback they like to run a lot, so we’re looking to our linebackers and defensive ends,” the Ram coach said. “Mostly Quentin Lewis, he plays in the middle for us, then Seth Evans at defensive end.”
In his first two games against Mohawk and Riverdale, Lewis piled up 13 tackles. Evans wrapped up seven tackles.
“They both need to step up for us this week and make big plays,” Spencer added.
On the other side of the ball for USV, quarterback Cole Crawford has led the team through the air with the spread offense. In his first two games, Crawford was just over .500 throwing, going 47-for-87 with 469 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions.
The recipient of most of Crawford’s passes has receiver Austin Howard, catching 13 passes for 172 yards and one score.
Crawford has also been the team’s leading rusher with 175 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries.
For the Gophers, led by coach Mike Eversole, the theme will be getting back to basics and playing their type of football.
Ridgemont opened up league play last week, suffering its first loss of the season against 1-3 Fairbanks.
Eversole felt part of the loss may have been attributed to the idea of his team being 3-0 and the opposition 0-3 getting into his players’ heads, but regardless, they have to focus on this week, he said.
“A lot of it has just been getting back to basics, working on fundamentals and doing what we did the prior three weeks,” Eversole said. “We’re not focusing on anything but Friday night’s game and what we need to do.”
According to the Eversole, everyone on the team needs to step up and have a big game against their county rival.
“From our standpoint, we need (quarterback) Tyler Tillman to step up and have a big game. We need our receiving corps to step up, our running backs and our line – pretty much everybody needs to get back on track and play Ridgemont football,” he said. “I’m really looking for everyone to step up and have a big night.”
In last week’s game against Fairbanks, Tillman threw 24 passes with eight completions for 120 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. This season, he is 27 of 70 with 445 yards, eight touchdowns and four interceptions through the air.
On the ground, Tillman has scored twice on 38 carries for 136 yards. Tim Cowan leads the Gophers’ rushing attack with 339 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries.
In the last three games, receiver Devin Rowe has caught 10 passes for 207 yards with three scores.
Defensively, the Gophers are led by Trevor Sparks who has picked up 43 tackles in his four games.
But regardless of either teams stats or records, both coaches agree that when it comes to this inter-county rivalry, all bets are off.
“USV is always a big game every year, it doesn’t matter what their record is or what ours is, the two teams just want to beat each other,” Eversole said. “Obviously bragging rights in Hardin County, for our kids, is worth a lot.”
“Being an inter-county rivalry means a lot for this game … I know our kids are excited about, not only getting into league play, but also being able to play a Hardin County rival,” Spencer said. “We’re just ready to go.”
By TY THAXTON
Times staff writer