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Raiders find room for improvement after jamboree

August 12, 2011

COLUMBUS - Oak Hill finally hit the grid-iron Thursday night, their first taste of action at the Heritage Academy jamboree.

"We did about as expected," first year head coach Benjie Merchant said.

The Raiders lost to Bessemer Academy (Ala.) 14-0 in the first game and then lost 13-0 against Tuscaloosa Christian, both among the best in the Alabama Independent Schools Association.

"We played a real good team in Bessemer," Merchant said."We were playing out of our league. They had athletes everywhere. I think once we get back in our own league we'll be okay."

Bessemer finished 11-1 last season in Class AAA and were one win away from playing for the state title. Tuscaloosa Christian finished 9-1.

Merchant said they knew it was going to be a tough outing playing against bigger opponents with depth across the board. He said this was "a gauge" of where the Raiders stand right now with less than a week before the regular season kicks-off.

"Tackling, we're going to to have to work on that," he said. "And conditioning, so that we can play our guys both ways. We know where we're at now. We have a better idea on certain positions."

Although they were shut out offensively, the Raiders made huge strides in running the ball well and cutting down on some of the mental mistakes. Merchant said they did make some big plays on defense but they need to be consistent.

"The bottom line is, we need to tackle better," he said. "That really hurt us."

Despite setbacks, Merchant said the Raiders never lost confidence in themselves.

"We've been telling them the whole time, we knew we were stepping up in class and that it was going to be tough," he said. "I don't think we lost confidence just because we had a little success in running the ball and making big stops."

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