Leader Blues

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

SPORTS >>Catholic expecting Bear of a challenge

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

When Sylvan Hills visited War Memorial Stadium to open the 2005 football season, things started normally for both teams. In the second half, things went all awry for the Bears. Turnovers became almost as frequent as snaps, and the Rockets eventually rolled to a whopping 49-7 victory.

Even though last year’s game was an easy one for Catholic, don’t expect the Rockets to enter tonight’s season opener against the Bears with too much confidence. Catholic head coach Scooter Register isn’t allowing it.

“We’re definitely not looking past Sylvan Hills,” Register said. “Things just kind of snowballed on them last year with the turnovers and everything. We just got lucky. Sylvan Hills is always a tough ball team and we’re expecting a tough game.”
The Rockets won’t be the same team that beat the Bears, won the AAAAA-Central and moved on to the AAAAA semifinals, but they may be as good. This year’s team replaces 18 starters and 31 seniors off the 2005 squad, but it’s still loaded with potential.

Starting running back LaNorris Dukes is back and will continue to get the bulk of the carries in Catholic’s ground game. There’s a new quarterback at the helm, but one with a lot of experience. Reed Thomas played a lot last year after Catholic had secured victories, and he started against Little Rock Parkview in the victory against the Rockets’ fellow playoff participants.

The biggest concern for Catholic is at the line. The entire offensive line is new, but Register doesn’t seem too concerned.
“They’re inexperienced, but they’re big,” Register said. “They’re big and they can move a little bit. They have the potential to be a very good unit. Hopefully they’re read to play Wednesday night.” Sylvan Hills brings speed, decent size and athleticism to tonight’s matchup, but still has the same disadvantage to Catholic as last year, depth.

Register isn’t focusing on the Bears’ disadvantages. He’s concerned with their strengths. “They’ve got a lot of good-looking athletes over there,” Register said. “That young man that played quarterback last year, Shelton, he’s back there and running back now and looking very good. That quarterback, Hunter Miller, is a fine looking athlete. They’ve got those kinds of guys all over the field. We’re going to have to play fundamental football to win.”

Hunter Miller’s ability to throw the ball means Sylvan HIls will throw the ball more this season. The Bears didn’t show a lot of the passing game in their intra-squad scrimmage, but Register has heard about the new aerial attack.

“That’s what everybody is saying, but I’ve been around long enough to know that what you plan to do don’t always work,” Register said. “Sometimes you have to go back to what you know how to do, so we’re trying to get ready for the spread, the wishbone, and everything else they run.”