Raiders dig in for opener against Warriors

Oak Hill team captains at "Meet the Raiders" on Thursday (submitted photo)
DTL Editor

The Oak Hill Academy Raiders will open the 2018 season tonight at home against the visiting Deer Creek School Warriors.

Raider coach Chris Craven said the squad from Arcola typically has good athletes and are led by coach Benny McLendon, who he referred to as a “very smart and good coach.”

The Warriors have posted six-win seasons in the last two years and have not played the Raiders since 2016, when the Warriors won on Oak Hill turf 28-7.

“It’s always a challenge,” Craven said. “I’ve coached against (McLendon) and played against him. What we’re looking for out of our guys is to fix mental mistakes.

Craven said he expects Deer Creek to run multiple offensive sets, but said they lean more on a spread game.

He then praised his first-year defensive coach Bill Rosenthal for how prepared he has his defensive unit.

“As long as the kids are prepared and put out maximum effort and pursue the ball, they’re going to do a great job,” Craven said. “We start over this week, working in the present and will play our kind of football, offensively and defensively. We want to impose our will on the other team and force them to play our kind of football and we want to be hard-hitting and stop the run.”

When facing a talented offense, Craven then said the goal will be to force their opponents to go to the passing game.

“I want to be sound in the secondary, but at the same time, a lot of things have to happen to catch the ball down field.”

On offense, Craven hopes to see more of the same from last week’s jamboree victory over Pickens Academy. Future success will depend on senior quarterback Ash Cullum.

“Ash is really smart, he knows how to run our offense, as long as you make good decisions with the ball, you can keep the ball, you may have a big game,” Craven said.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Oak Hill.