By CLINT FOSTER
Fresh off their first win of the season, the Community Christian School Warriors (1-2) return home for another tough non-district game against the North Central Texas Academy Pioneers (0-2) at 7 p.m. tonight in historic Miller Stadium.
Last year, CCS found itself on the short end of a 56-30 defeat at the hands of the Pioneers – formerly known as Happy Hill – in Granbury. But this time around, the Warriors are riding the momentum of a close win over Ovilla Christian and will look to get their first home victory against another team that head coach Bryan Horton called “really good from top to bottom.”
Horton pointed to NCTA’s speed as a mismatch for the Warriors going into tonight’s game, but he said he has high hopes.
“It’s a game we can win,” he said. “We’ve got to continue to improve what we’re working on... We can’t continue to make mistakes on the offensive side of the ball because they’re going to work our defense pretty hard. It’s going to be a dogfight. They’re going to be hungry for a win.”
The Pioneers will be coming off a bye week, so just like Ovilla last Saturday, Horton said NCTA will have had plenty of time to focus solely on beating CCS. NCTA’s disappointing 0-2 start makes this all the more troubling for the boys in purple.
But Horton’s optimism primarily stems from the Pioneers’ turnover issues he has seen in the film room.
“The biggest thing for us is taking advantage of when they make mistakes,” he said. “They put the ball on the ground a little too much in their first two games.
“I never really hope that somebody doesn’t play well, but maybe there’s a little part of me that hopes they do us a few favors, we certainly will take them.”
Likewise, Horton said his Warriors need to focus on eliminating penalties and turnovers, but such is the way of football, or all sports for that matter. Make as few mistakes as possible and take advantage of when the other team does.
Another source of optimism for the Warriors faithful is freshman sensation Levi Knowles. Knowles burst on to the scene last week in his second career start at running back, posting 20 carries for 169 yards and three touchdowns and an additional 11 yards receiving to lead CCS in total offense. He also led the defense against Ovilla with 12 solo tackles and a fumble recovery to seal the victory.
Knowles’ quick rise coupled with the Warriors’ established stars, Joby Bradshaw and Isaiah and Sammy Brazeal, adds a whole new dimension to the offense and gives opponents one more legitimate weapon to worry about.
The discovery of Knowles might not have come at a better time before the Warriors face an aggressive NCTA defense.
“He’s the only true running back on the team,” Horton said of his freshman phenom. “I’ve got other guys who can run the ball and gain some yardage, but when you talk about what a running back is supposed to look like: he’s compact, he’s quick, he’s all the things that you really need in the backfield.
“Isaiah and Joby are great in the open field, but when you’ve got to make quick cuts, Levi’s that kind of kid.
“He can do some things that we just lacked.”
With regards to his defense, which has struggled mightily against the spread this year, Horton said he expects to see much of the same when the Pioneers have the ball. He added that NCTA primarily operates out of a tight formation, but he thinks highly of the Pioneers’ coach and said that anybody who watches film on the Warriors can quickly recognize their main weakness is spread defense.
Perhaps the biggest help to Horton’s defense though could be the deluge of rain in the forecast. Horton said he hopes the rain continues well into the night to hamstring the Pioneers’ passing game and give his team an even bigger home-field advantage.
“I’ve got a team that’s built for mud,” he said. “I’m like the rest of the town, I’m praying for rain, but maybe for some different reasons (Friday) anyway.”
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