Oak Hill head football coach Benjie Merchant said the Raiders will have to be mistake free in order to have a chance to defeat Winston tonight. It’s the first district battle for both teams slated for 7 p.m. in Lousiville.
The Raiders have had a productive week on the practice field, correcting some issues that cost them an 18-7 loss to Newton County in the season opener.
“It’s a slow progress,” Merchant said. “In the weight room and just trying to get better all the way around.”
Merchant said the Raiders will be making changes on how they run the game plan and eliminate some play calling to go back to basics with simple offensive and defensive packages.
“I think we got out of our element trying to do too much offensively,” he said.
Against Newton, the Raiders struggled offensively, punting four times in the first three quarters of the ball game and had just 200 yards of total offense.
Their lone touchdown gave them the lead with about 30 seconds left to play, Curt Huffman picked off a pass and ran it back for a 70-yard score.
Merchant preached for the players to stay hydrated everyday, not just in practice. Last Friday, several Raiders went down with cramps during the game. He said there is a mental aspect to it and that the players are showing more confidence in the abilities
There is some good news as far as injury updates for the Raiders. Junior’s Jeb Stevens and Palmer White have been cleared to play. Stevens, who this fall was supposed to be sharing snaps with Conner Baird, will be limited to a few plays on defense and has been moved to running back.
Baird had a solid outing as the number one last week, throwing 7-of-15 for 118 yards.
“We’ve been happy with his progress,” Merchant said. “He’s done very well.”
Oak Hill will be tested tonight on defense when they take on a Winston squad that topped Sylva Bay 46-26. Winston rallied for 456 total yards on offense led by senior quarterback Tyler Sullivan who finished with 279 passing yards and four touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns.
“Their senior quarterback (Sullivan) is very good, “ Merchant said. “He is the leader of that offense. He does a very good job at it.”
Merchant was also impressed with how stacked they are across the board.
“From receiver to running back, they all do it well,” he said after watching film. “They know how to run that offense.
Winston will also have an advantage as far as roster size, with 31 players listed on the chart which gives them enough players to rotate at each position and keep players fresh.
“We have to play solid and we can’t have any mistakes,” Merchant said. “We have to play the best we (coaches) have seem them play to compete with those guys.”
The first district game is often just as crucial as the last with both teams trying to get an early edge before October.
West Point and Hebron are off this week.