Quick-strike Erwin invades Pisgah’s turfBears planning to slow tempo down against visiting Warriors
CANTON — Tonight’s Erwin at Pisgah non-conference football game at Memorial Stadium may be the Black Bears’ toughest test this season — At least for Pisgah defensive coordinator Rickey Brindley’s secondary.
In the Black Bears’ first two games, opposing quarterbacks have tried to pick apart the secondary with little success. Enka’s Hunter Graham and North Buncombe’s Chase Parker have combined for 345 passing yards, 79 attempts but completed less than 50 percent of their passes.
However, Erwin invades the Black Bears’ turf led by talented sophomore Damien Ferguson, who in two games has completed 66.7 percent of his passes for 415 yards and three scoring strikes. He also is the Warriors leading rusher with 78 yards.
Pisgah’s defense will have to mark Ferguson for 48 minutes, but the Black Bears can ill-afford to totally focus on him because he has a full stable of fast receivers to throw to such as Chase Austin (nine receptions for 167 yards and one touchdown), Chavis Williams (eight receptions for 167 yards and two touchdowns) and Kealin Goode (five receptions).
“Obviously, our concerns are their speed and big-play capabilities,” said Pisgah head coach Brett Chappell. “Erwin is a talented team that makes a lot of big plays. We have to limit them. We are not going to be able to hold them all night but we can not allow the plays that go for 50 or more yards.”
While the Black Bears’ defense has been put on alert to limit Erwin’s big plays, Pisgah’s offense may have to be the model of patience, controlling the tempo and pounding the ball in four yards in a cloud of dust snap after snap.
Pisgah will need for its offensive line to win the battle in the trenches and rely on its two-back tandem of senior Trevor Johnson (114 rushing yards) and junior Daniel Van Vaerenbergh (194 yards, two touchdowns) to grind up four yards a carry.
In other words, they have to play a near perfect game.
“Basically we need to play a perfect game and have a lot more energy than we did last time we played at home,” said Chappell. “We have to win on first down. We need to stay out of those second an long situations and we can not afford to get down by three or four scores. And believe me, the film doesn’t lie. Erwin’s offense can strike really quick.
“We need to be the team to control the clock with time-consuming drives and limit their possessions. We need to stick to this game plan in order to have a shot at winning the game.”
The Warriors, which has impressively beaten East Rutherford (42-24) and Mountain Heritage (41-26) averages 41.5 points per game on offense, but their defnese is also giving up 25 points a game.
On the other hand, Pisgah’s defense is allowing 9.5 points a game, while its offense is scoring 20.5 points a contest thanks to the 38 points against Enka last week.
Since 1999, Pisgah went 4-0 against the Warriors before losing last season in Leicester, 46-31, which was the first-ever win against Pisgah for Erwin head coach Mike Sexton (0-2 at Tuscola; 1-3 at Erwin).
There are three keys for a Pisgah victory tonight. The first, the Black Bears’ offense must win at least 70 percent of the first downs by gaining four yards or more a carry. Chappell knows his team is more likely to move the chains and keep the possession of the ball by staying out of second and long situations.
The second key to a victory goes hand-in-hand with the first — winning the time of possession. If Pisgah’s offense can put together four time-consuming drives of four-minutes or more each half, scoring on half of them, the Black Bears should be in position at the end to win the game.
The third and final key to a victory involves the fact the Black Bears do not have at this time a reliable and experience place kicker. He is working with a few players and may have one ready to go by the end of the year. Still, no kicker forces Chappell to go for two-points after every touchdown. Every football fan knows the percentage of converting a two-point conversion is much lower than kicking a point after try.
And let’s not forget the fact once in the red zone Chappell does not have any capabilities for kicking field goals. It’s touchdown or bust for Pisgah.
If the Black Bears can manage to score four times and convert at least three, two-point conversions, that could be the deciding factor in the game.
However, needing to accomplish three keys for a victory against a great team such as Erwin is a lot to ask of Chappell’s young Black Bears.
Oh, they will scrap to the very end. Give a valiant effort and keep the game close to the buzzer.
Unfortunately, Pisgah comes up short by a point.