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Eagles take on Columbia in huge 8-AAA clash tonight

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Golden Eagle defense will have a different look to help stop the run when they face Columbia tonight at 7 at Eagle Stadium.
(T-G Photo by Gary Johnson) [Order this photo]
Before you can be the Beast, you have to defeat the Beast.

Shelbyville Central's Golden Eagles will have that task at hand when they host District 8-AAA opponent Columbia tonight at 7.

The Lions (3-1, 2-0 8-AAA) have been the district's most dominant team over the past few years, including a TSSAA Class 5A State Championship run in 2010.

This matchup has included some very memorable games, but perhaps none as exciting as last year's in Columbia.

Not intimidated

The Lions entered as the top-ranked team in Class 5A but the Golden Eagles were not intimidated, fighting Columbia tooth-and-nail until the end. Shelbyville fell 49-48 in overtime after coming up inches short on a two-point conversion that would have won the game.

"I think that game last year with Columbia was one of the most exciting game in the mid-state all year," Hardy said. "It was just a great game to watch and a great game to be a part of. Both teams left everything on the field and we just came up a little short there at the end. Even though we didn't win the game we gained some confidence and did a lot of positive things."

New coach

Columbia has a new head coach, Howard Stone, who is a former head coach at Cascade from years ago, but returns a lot of starters on both side of the ball.

"I'm sure Coach Stone has come in a tried to put his mark on this football team but when you look at them compared to last year, he hasn't made a lot of changes. I think they return 9-of-11 starters on offense and five or six starters on defense.

"They are very similar to the way they were last year. They started this season slow with a loss to Dickson County but after scoring 56 points against Marshall County last week, I think they're back on track."

Time to rebound

Shelbyville (2-2, 0-1 8-AAA) enters the game with a district loss earlier this season to Franklin County and must win this game to have a chance to claim a district title.

"There's no doubt about it, this is a big game for us. Winning this game would go a long way towards what we're trying to accomplish as a team," Shelbyville Coach Jason Hardy said. "This is not a make-or-break game for us but it would put us on a positive track towards having a positive season and getting back to the state playoffs."

In the first four games the Eagle offense has been very impressive but the defense has struggled from time to time, especially stopping the run.

Shelbyville has accumulated 1,508 yards of total offense while the defense has allowed 1,345 total yards, including 1,114 yards on the ground.

Columbia enters the contest with 1,417 yards of total offense, with 826 of that rushing.

Defensive stand

The Eagles must find a way to slow down the Lions' running attack if they want to have a chance to win this game.

"We've made some changes that we hope will help us in our run defense. I won't say we've made a major overhaul but I think you'll notice some different looks and a little different style of football on defense," Hardy said.

"We're going to force our kids to be more aggressive by calling a different defensive type of game. It's worked really well in practice this week and we think it's going to be a step in the right direction."

Tough foe

Columbia features a steady running attack but also returns a three-year starter at quarterback in Matthew Markham, as well as Dre Hall, one of the top wide receivers in the mid-state.

"They are just so talented on both side of the ball. They also are very good on special teams and have a number guys that can return kickoffs and punts," Hardy said. "I think that a lot of points could be scored in this game but it might be a big play on special teams or defense that's the difference."

Shelbyville will be without lineman Dylan Powell who suffered an apparent season-ending torn ACL last week.

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