By TONY EIERDAM
Something has to give Friday night at Ram Stadium.
The Mineral Wells Rams and Fort Worth Diamond Hill Eagles have yet to notch a victory in District 6-3A play or otherwise, and for the first time this season one of the teams will walk off the field turf in Mineral Wells as a first-time victor.
Although both teams are winless in 6-3A, the overall margin of victory of Rams’ opponents has been just 13 points, while Diamond Hill’s two 6-3A opponents to date have outscored the Eagles by a combined 130-7.
The Rams played well offensively in their 24-21 loss in the district opener against Castleberry, and last week the MWHS defense played its best game of the season in a 16-6 loss at Lake Worth.
“If (today) we can combine our offensive effort against Castleberry with our defensive effort at Lake Worth I would hope that would lead us to a win,” Rams head coach Chuck Lawrence said. “But we also cannot forget special teams because they are just as critical.
“Our kids keep working hard and playing hard, and that is all we can ask them to do.”
Last year, the Rams defeated the Eagles, 57-0, as MWHS held DHHS to 39 total yards. The Eagles ran a strange offense – often with double- and triple-stacked slot backs – to try and create confusion.
This season the Eagles have been running mainly out of an “I” formation to take advantage of the skills of junior running back Tim Robinson, who has gained 674 yards on 138 carries (4.8 yards per carry) and scored six touchdowns.
“It will be a little easier to prepare for Diamond Hill this year since they are running a regular offense,” Lawrence said. “But I also would not put it past them to come up with that other to throw us off, although we haven’t seen such in the film on them we have been watching.
“They like to pitch it to Robinson on isolation plays and sweeps. They also like to run the belly and trap to the fullback (Zeith Ortiz-Perez), and they like to throw it to No. 4 (Luis Reyes).
But the key is stopping Robinson. He is a big kid (listed at 5-10, 230 pounds) and powerful. He doesn’t have a lot of speed but he is hard to bring down.
“We are going to have to be sure on our tackling and get a lot of people on him. We have to wrap him up. They run so much and their offense is almost the same concept as Castleberry and Burkburnett – they will lull you to sleep with the run and then surprise you with a play-action pass.
“I expect Diamond Hill to hammer us with the I formation and all of a sudden pop a pass to (Reyes). A lot of teams have played Reyes in bump and run, but he still is getting open. The good news is they haven’t competed too many passes in those situations, but he is getting free in the secondary.
“Reyes has some skills and we are going to have to defend him.”
The Eagles’ defense gave up 70 points last week to Kennedale and has allowed 284 points in seven games, which is almost 41 points per game.
Diamond Hill has been lining up in 5-1 and 4-2 defenses.
“In addition I think they will show us some looks defensively that we haven’t seen on film,” Lawrence said. “They have been giving up a lot of points, and hopefully we can put some points on the board.”
The Rams’ offense produced 254 total yards against Castleberry, including 194 through the air, but backtracked last week at Lake Worth with 236 total yards, and only 85 through the air, and five turnovers.
“(Quarterback) Caleb (Acosta) needs to make his reads and throw to the proper guy,” Lawrence explained. “He got a little impatient last week.
“Part of that was because we had to come from behind and Caleb was trying to make some big plays, but in the last series(of the Lake Worth) game Caleb was hitting the open man and moving the offense down the field.
“That is what our offense is based off of. We have to take what the defense allows us to take. I feel we will be better (today).”
Lawrence said he was pleased overall with the Rams’ special teams, although he did acknowledge Lake Worth ran kicks back too far to his liking.
“We have gotten decent field position out of our return teams,” he said. “I was a little bit disappointed in our kickoff team last week, and especially after the safety when we had to kick from our own 20-yard line. Lake Worth got a good return off that.
“We also gave up a long return when we had a man pinned deep. It reminded me of the Hirschi game when we had the return man locked up but just didn’t tackle him (before returning the ball for a touchdown). But we have corrected that in practice and hopefully that will translate to (today’s) game.
“But our punt team was outstanding last week as Chris (Rapp) put two or three kicks inside the 10-yard line.
“I also hope we can get a few kick and punt returns against Diamond Hill. We know they are going to pooch-kick the ball and we will have to adjust to that.
“Special teams are a crucial part of every game, and it is a part we plan to win.”