NEWPORT—With a new week comes new opportunity, which is exactly how the Cocke County High Fighting Cocks are looking at week two of the 11-week football calendar going into this week.
This week provides an abbreviated week for the Big Red, as they’ll make the short jaunt to Kokdak, Tenn. for a special Thursday night kickoff with the Northview Academy Cougars (KICKOFF: 7:30 P.M., RADIO: 97.9 FM / 1270 AM WLIK), the first ever meeting between the two programs.
“I think it’s extremely important that we bounce back this week,” CCHS coach Scotty Dykes said. “We’ve got to put ourselves in position where we’re carrying confidence into week three, and the only way we do that is secure a win this week.”
Week one didn’t go anywhere near what the first-year head coach had hoped for.
It wasn’t for lack of effort, though. Dykes praised his team’s fight throughout the game, but felt from an execution standpoint they still have room for improvement.
“I really felt our effort and execution on defense last week was on point,” Dykes said. “We played well enough to win, and only giving up 14 points should put you in a good position to win a football game.
“Offensively our effort was good, but we didn’t execute. We’ll figure that out, get it cleaned up and be ready to improve this week.”
While his defense played lights out for most of the game, only surrendering two scores to a potent air attack from Campbell County, the offense couldn’t reach the 100-yard mark in total yardage and was shutout by the end of a long night.
“Repetition has been the theme of the week for us,” Dykes said. “We’ve got our game plan in place, and we’ve been repping it persistently. I thought I guys came back ready to work Monday, and we had a good start to the week. We’re going to continue repping it until we get off the bus and get ready to play Thursday.”
Cocke County’s offense only produced 94 yards of total offense in last week’s loss to Campbell County, only 12 of which came on the ground despite the team’s leading rusher from a year ago — Lundon Shelton — returning to the backfield.
“That was highly unacceptable,” Dykes said. “It’s one of the first things we mentioned on Friday. If we can’t establish the line of scrimmage, whether it’s rushing or passing, then there’s nothing we can do.
“A lot of our offense is based off the ground game, so we have to be able to run the ball more effectively on a consistent basis.”
With a short week to get mistakes corrected on the offensive end, the team is making the most of its chance to things turned around, and get the offense headed back in the right direction.
However, the Fighting Cocks are aiming to keep their focus forward rather than look in the past. And what lies ahead is a Northview defense that surrendered 27 points to West Greene in its season opener.
Dykes is hopeful Thursday provides a chance for his offense to showcase their true capabilities in order to build confidence going toward the remainder of the season.
“It’ll be important to have success early on offense,” Dykes said. “It’d be nice to go out and score on the first drive, but I just want to see us execute and move the ball in the first quarter. We’ve got to have confidence to get better from drive to drive so we can move the ball better than we did last week.”
Northview will present a physical challenge on both sides of the ball for CCHS.
The Cougars run a triple-option style offense, and base their defense out of a 4-3 to keep opposing teams’ ground games in check, which was the main area Cocke County was lacking against Campbell County.
“They’re a physical team on both sides of the ball, up front,” Dykes said. “They use a wing-T offense and 4-3 defense that allows them to establish themselves up front. I’ve made it clear to the kids if we don’t come ready to compete on Thursday then the results are not going to be any better than last week.”
While the Fighting Cocks’ defense played well enough to win last week, they still allowed a Campbell County team that’s more inclined to go to the air to reach over 100 yards rushing in week one. Facing a team in week 2 that will look to pound the rock on the ground and wear down the defensive front will be a completely different challenge in itself on Thursday.
CCHS has a strong, experienced group up front, led by senior defensive tackle Ryder Campbell.
Although it’ll be important for the defensive line to control the line of scrimmage, the team’s young group of linebackers, led by last week’s leading tackler Jeremiah Benjamin, will also have to be on their toes to clean up any plays on the interior and ensure the Cougars don’t bounce out any big runs out of misdirection plays.
“We have to be strong up front,” Dykes said. “Linebackers reading their keys will be super important, but our defensive line will have to set the tone. If we allow (Northview) to establish a push up front then the linebackers are rendered ineffective.”