Week 1: Union Grove (1-0) at Overton (1-0)

After shocking the heavily-favored Cayuga Wildcats during “zero week” the Overton Mustangs now turn their focus on a determined Class 2A Union Grove squad.

Like Cayuga, the Lions bring back considerable experience from 2010, with 9 offensive starters and 7 defensive starters returning. But unlike the Wildcats, there are no question marks about the Union Grove offense.

The Lions line up in a Power-I formation and use a well-executed rushing attack to beat the linemen and backers into submission, thus freeing their speedy ballcarrriers to carve up the defense with big gains. There’s very little deception in the Union Grove offense, they simply line up and run right at you, daring you to try to stop them.

Behind a seasoned and disciplined offensive line, Lion ballcarriers rarely have to bounce running plays outside to the perimeter but are confident lowering their heads and running between the tackles. Overton’s young and undersized defensive line will be tested early and often. If the linebackers cannot adequately support the tackles, the Mustang defense is in for a long and painful night.

As tough an obstacle as the Union Grove offense poses, their defense is even more impressive.

In 2010 the Lions held Overton scoreless en route to a 14-0 shutout, despite the Mustangs reaching the red zone on four occasions. Union Grove’s defense, like their offense, is well-coached and patient. They bend but do not break.

Sophomore fullback Jamal Kelly may well reach the century mark again this week, but it will likely take him at least 25-30 carries to do so and he’ll have to earn every yard he gets. K.J Luster must aide the running game by stretching the defense with rollout passing plays. Timothy Hawkins and Da’Corian Ford will have to spell Kelly by attacking the outside with counters, keeping the backers and secondary honest.

Against Beckville last week (a team Overton tied in a preseason scrimmage) the Lions shut down the Bearkats backfield. If they can shutout Beckville, they can do the same thing to the Mustangs.

Overton must play mistake-free ball, and use their own conservative power offense to keep their defense from wearing down late in the game.

Austin McCasland, with “Bruise Brothers” Austin Cook and Greg Moore, must be solid on both sides of the ball. Sophomore standouts Aden Williams and T.J. Lewis must play above their experience. The entire team must ready themselves for a battle with an experienced and hard-nosed Union Grove squad.

MY PREDICTION: what starts off as a slugfest between two tough competitors soon turns into a rout, as the Green Machine’s conditioning keeps them in the game longer. Big plays will be the difference as the Mustangs start building momentum down the stretch. Overton rolls to 2-0 with an impressive 40-20 victory.

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