By Tony Burns
El Dorado is eager to get on the field after last week’s 48-41 double overtime loss to Conway in the season opener.
Camden Fairview, on the other hand, will be seeing its first action tonight when the Cardinals invade Memorial Stadium.
“We need to play again. We’ve got to get on the right side of one,” El Dorado coach Scott Reed said Wednesday. “Our guys couldn’t be down too long after last week because we have a rivalry game coming up.
“The first three weeks are going to be full of good competition. Camden is much better than they’ve been. Our kids know that. We’ve got to accept the challenge and get ready to go play.”
There are advantages and disadvantages to having a game under their belt while Fairview is yet to play.
The Wildcats should’ve ridded themselves of opening night jitters and discovered and fixed a few problems.
“A couple of our kids said the scrimmage at Nashville was nothing like the speed they saw Friday night. It was just overwhelming how fast both teams were playing and just the level you had to play at,” said Reed. “We made a lot of mental mistakes but I think we’ll get better and better.
“I would much rather have played a game. I think that’s good because our kids got tired. They got game tired. They got game sore. Yet, we stayed healthy, which is good. And, we should improve.”
The disadvantage is Fairview has game tape of the Wildcats.
“We know each other pretty well. We’ve got new stuff for them. And, they’re going to have new things for us, new wrinkles,” Reed said of Fairview, coached by former El Dorado defensive coordinator Jacob Monden.
The Cardinals, annually, feature speed, speed and more speed.
Under Monden, Fairview’s offense might add some power this season.
“Jeremiah Monden is running a spread-type offense but he’s also getting under center, now, which he didn’t last year and run, what we call 20 personnel with a fullback and tailback and three wide receivers,” said Reed.
“And, what we would call basic personnel with a tight end and what we call I-Pro. So, he’s doing more things offensively. They seem to be most comfortable when they’re in four wide. But, they’re doing more things in the run game and play action when they get under center. They’re doing more offensively.”
Senior Keith Johnson (6-1, 205) returns at quarterback. Reed said the big play threats are on the outside.
“I think they’ll be very balanced,” he said. “They need to get the ball to (Quaishun Thompson (6-2, 190, Sr.) on the outside and their running back (Gabriel Rucks, 6-0, 190, Sr.) getting him in space.
“They’re not going to hand it off to the running back 40 times and try to rush for 250 yards like Conway did. Camden is going to be balanced and they’re going to get the ball spread out more.”
Thompson not only lines up at receiver but also returns punts and kickoffs.
“We can’t let him beat us in the kicking game,” said Reed. “I think we’ve got to eliminate big plays. To me, I don’t think they have the ability to kick field goals like we do.
“So, if we can keep them out of the end zone, you’ll see them going for it a lot on fourth down, rather than kick a field goal. That’s important. Don’t let ‘em get into the end zone. Get ‘em on the ground. That’s important. And, not let those guys beat us in space. When they’re in four wide, we have to do a good job covering the fade route. They like to throw it deep.
“When they’re under center, we can’t go to sleep and let them play-action us and throw it over the top. I think if we don’t let them throw it over the top of us and hit us with big plays like that, we’ll be in good shape. But, they have the ability to create some big plays.”
Defensively, Fairview is expected to line up in a 4-3 and play man-to-man in the secondary.
“They’re much better defensively. Their inside guys are really good. Their two defensive tackles, I think are good players,” said Reed. “The middle linebacker is back and he’s a big, physical guy. And on the back end, they run well. They’re fast. So, to me, we need to be more physical and we need to be more consistent offensively.”
Last week, starting center Thomas Crawford did not play due to injury. When asked his status this week, Reed said, “He’s better.”
Despite last week’s tough loss, Reed was pleased with how the Wildcats competed. He knows it will take another big effort against another tough opponent.
“I think this group understands we have to play good every week to have a chance to win,” said Reed. “That’s certainly the case this week. Camden is much better than they’ve been.”