Leader Blues

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

SPORTS >>Bombers hope for win over the Devils

Leader sport editor

Jacksonville is riding high after a big road win over third-ranked Lake Hamilton last week, and prepares to host a team on the opposite end of the 6A spectrum. Mountain Home is 0-3 with two losses to teams from smaller classifications. Jacksonville has played two archrivals and the No. 3 team in the state, but considers the Bombers its biggest game so far.

Why? Regardless of record, MH just seems to have Jacksonville’s number. The Red Devils have been favored in each of the last two meetings, but has lost two in a row, and three of four since the two teams became members of the same conference.
Mountain Home coach ShanPatrick realizes that. He has a team that is looking for a reason to have confidence, and he reminds them that his seniors have never lost to the Red Devils.

“We talk about that,” Patrick said. “We’ve pulled out some close victories the last couple of years when a lot of people didn’t expect us to. Hopefully we can get that same kind of effort and that same outcome this week.” The Bombers’ Achilles’ heel this year has been the defense, and that’s a bad sign against a Jacksonville team that is averaging well above 400 yards per game.

“We’ve got 10 new starters on that side of the ball, and we’re just trying to get better,” Patrick said. “It’s not all their fault though. Part of the defensive problems has been the offense leaving the defense on the short side of the field. We’ve had way too many turnovers and that’s hurt us a lot.”

Jacksonville coach Mark Whatley was extremely pleased with his defense in last week’s win over the Wolves. He said it was without a doubt its best peformance of the year. He’s also pleased with the progress the offense is making, but doesn’t feel like he’s seen the best from his squad yet.

That worries Patrick. “That’s very scary to us,” Patrick said. “If they’re averaging 400 and hadn’t played well, I hope they don’t start playing well this week because we sure won’t have a chance.” Like every coach, whether his team is 3-0, 0-3 or somewhere in between, Patrick is reminding his kids that the games that count start now.

“I tell them that we’re 0-3, and we still have as much chance of making the playoffs as anybody,” Patrick said. “It’s just real important for us to go out and try hard to play better and find a way to win.” While his squad has not yet played well, Patrick has seen signs of improvement.

“Actually I have,” Patrick said. “We’ve gotten better each week. I didn’t think we played well last week at all (a loss to Van Buren), but we do have some areas that have improved. From week one to now, we are a better football team.”