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Fast start critical for Strong in first meeting

by Jason Avery | November 19, 2021 at 12:00 a.m.

When Strong and Brinkley met last month, the Bulldogs jumped out to a 26-0 lead at intermission en route to a 32-6 win.

The schools collide again tonight in a rematch in the semifinals of the 2A 8-Man playoffs with the winner advancing to the state finals.

For Brinkley coach Ethan Baker, the Tigers’ loss to the Bulldogs stems from a tough first half.

“We’ve struggled on all of our road trips this year,” Baker said. “We’ve come out slow. Of course, the field was real muddy, and they came out and played hard and we kind of laid down a little bit. We didn’t go our hardest.”

The Tigers recovered nicely from last month’s loss and enter tonight’s game on a four-game winning streak.

Baker feels his team will have a bit of an advantage in seeing the Bulldogs for a second time.

“I think we’re at a little bit of an advantage just because the guys know what we’re going to be lining up against,” Baker said. “We know a little bit more about who their No. 1 guys are and who they’re going to look for. We know what we’ve got to do, what improvements we’ve got to make from the first game just to keep it a game.”

Byron Maze had an outstanding performance on both sides of the ball for Strong in the first meeting.

On offense, he caught seven passes for 78 yards with two touchdowns.

On defense, he had seven tackles for a loss with two sacks. He also forced three fumbles and recovered one.

“Their big tight end, receiver, everything guy is an animal,” Baker said. “We’ve been trying to figure out how to slow him down because we know we can’t stop him. We’ve just got to try to slow him down.”

For Strong coach Sirl Wright, discipline by his defense was a key to the Bulldogs’ success.

“You’ve got to preach discipline,” Wright said. “As long as everybody understands their job, does their job and plays sound football and tackles, it makes it easier. That’s kind of how we defeated them before. Everybody had a job to do and everybody played their assignments very well. We stopped them last time, and hopefully we’ll do the same this time.”

LaQuincy Shelton went 11-of-18 passing for 101 yards and three scores in the win, while Treveon Daniels added 85 yards on the ground on 16 carries.

“Just basically playing sound, fundamental football,” Wright said of the first meeting. “They give you a balanced look. You can’t really key on much and just staying aggressive and making sure you ready your keys. We did a pretty good job defensively. Offensively, they’ve got some guys that are aggressive and we just had to execute and pay attention to the little things.

“As long as you keep doing that and you keep moving the ball and getting first downs, we just capitalized on all facets of the game that way.”

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