The Walking Wounded.
The locker room at South Laurel could resemble a MASH unit with the number of sick and injured players coach Matt Rhymer has going into tonight’s game with No. 10 Madison Southern.
“As of today (Wednesday) we have 10 starters out due to injury or sickness,” Rhymer said. “Some of those might play but it’s still a big question mark.” Not really a good way to go into a game featuring future Michigan Wolverine Damien Harris.
Harris is currently second in Class 5A in rushing. In four games he has carried the ball 82 times for 951 yards and 14 touchdowns. Twice this season he has scored five TDs in a game, twice he has topped 200 yards rushing, and once he topped 300 in a win over rival Madison Central. Rhymer knows it will be tough to stop Southern’s premiere offensive weapon.
“The best way to stop Harris is to keep the ball away from him,” Rhymer said. “Also I have seen people make great solo tackles against him, but more times than not it just seems people don’t want to tackle him. We have faced some great backs already so we should not be afraid to tackle him.”
As a team, Southern comes into tonight’s game averaging 38 points per game while allowing only 18.3. The Eagles have rushed for 1,135 yards and the defense averages allowing only 145 yards per game. Their quarterback is Aaron Sloan, who has completed 16-of-27 passes for 234 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions. He has two targets he likes to throw to: William Dean, who has caught eight passes for 117 yards and two touchdowns, and Devate Linville, was has hauled in six passes for 114 yards.
One of the players the Cardinals will be without is quarterback Jonathan Jenkins, who injured his elbow in the loss to Corbin. A freshman, Matt Harp, will be under center against Madison Southern.
“That is really exciting because as a freshman he has shown great potential for being an option QB,” Rhymer said. Also with all the injuries Rhymer said he has had to move some people around to be able to have a complete backfield, but it’s a bigger backfield so their philosophy won’t change a lot this week.
“A lot of kids practicing this week did not play a lot against Corbin, so their attitude in practice has been great,” Rhymer said. “With so many injuries a lot of guys are getting a chance to play sooner than they might have through so the energy has been great.”
To beat Southern, Rhymer said his team has to continue to believe everyday in what they are doing and under that it’s going to be a process.
“We have to learn to control the line of scrimmage, have zero turnovers, limit penalties, tackle great, be sound in the special teams and play hard nosed football for four quarters,” Rhymer said.
And even though his team is facing an uphill battle, Rhymer won’t let recent events bring him or his team down.
“Our football program might be similar to life as a person,” Rhymer said. “Sometimes you have to be completely broken and humiliated before you ever get better or grow stronger.”