With seasoned upperclassmen in starting spots on both sides of the ball, Cayuga comes into this match-up with a decided advantage. Returning 17 lettermen from a team that went 10-2 in 2010 and advanced to the Area round of the Class 1A state playoffs, the Wildcats feature a newly-installed “Pistol” offense and a shifty 4-2-5 defense.
Overton, on the other hand, is trying to replace the seven senior starters who graduated last season as well as six more seniors who elected to forgo their final year of football eligibility in order to focus on baseball. Only senior quarterback Austin McCasland, wingback Timothy Hawkins, and fullback John Blaylock return from a team that went 2-8 and finished fourth in District 9-1A. The Green Machine will need several salty sophomores to immediately raise their level of play in order to stay competitive.
Cayuga expects to air it out with the arm of senior signal caller Jake Nash, who passed for over 2,000 yards last season, and rattle Mustang ball carriers with an aggressive and quick defense. The entire Wildcat offensive line returns as well.
Overton operates a midline option attack out of a modified Split-T formation, but hopes to take advantage of the running ability of McCasland as well as the passing arm of junior quarterback K.J. Luster.
“We’ll mix it up a bit,” said Mustang head coach/athletic director Arthur “Bo” Talkington. “We’ll shift A.J. around in order to take advantage of his athleticism and have K.J. getting plenty of snaps to keep the defense off-balance.”
Overton’s front five possess size and talent but still seem hesitant, and appear to lack the fire to provide Mustang ballcarriers with enough space to run. Overton has a stable of ballcarriers with enough speed to turn a glimpse of daylight into 6 points, they need only the space to do so. Junior linemen Austin Cook and Greg Moore have the size and strength to rival any on the “trenchmen” line units of the 1990s, but need only to develop the surly aggressiveness of their forebears.
Defensively there are several key holes to fill, and several underclassmen will be expected to contribute immediately. At linebacker junior Jesse Roach returns after missing the latter half of the season due to injury. Roach led the team in tackles in 2010 before nagging injuries slowed his effectiveness. I expect a breakout season and all-district honors in 2011.
Line play will define the success of Overton’s season in 2011, on both sides of the ball. If the youngsters stepping in can step up and find a nasty streak, the Mustangs recent fortunes can take a considerable turnaround and contend for a playoff spot in District 9-1A.
But if not, Overton can expect another sub .500 season and last-place (or next to last) finish.
After watching these Mustangs practice on several occasions over the Summer, I believe the potential is there and a tremendous season is theirs for the taking. I think tonight’s game can be the first in a string of surprising upsets that builds momentum.
MY PREDICTION: the “Green Machine” ballcarriers will tear off several long runs and their defense will contain the Wildcat offense en route to a stunning 27-14 victory over the heavily-favored Cayuga Wildcats.