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Monday, May 2, 2016

Round 2 for Champions; Defending state champs stand in Cascade's way

Thursday, November 8, 2012

In order to secure a week two playoff win on Friday, the Champs will have to line up and play error-free football against the Friendship Christian Commanders.
(T-G Photo by Chris Siers) [Order this photo]
Heading into the playoffs might intimidate just about any team. Throw in the fact you've got to go up against the defending state champions, and it can be downright intimidating.

But in their week 1 debut in the TSSAA 2A playoffs, the Cascade Champions (7-4) went to Watertown and knocked off the Purple Tigers to keep their season alive.

If Cascade wants to make it to round three, the Champs have to go through defending state champion Friendship Christian.

'Complete team'

"This is a complete team. This is one of the better teams that I've faced since I've been at Cascade. They're really talented," said Cascade coach Kenny Parker.

In fact, the Commanders come into Friday's game after a first-round bye with a 9-1 overall record this season.

So far this year, the Commanders average just over 43 points per game, utilizing a balanced pass-run offense.

"They block well they, run well, they pass well. We're going to have to play very well. We're going have to create some turnovers -- which they don't do a lot," Parker said.

Forcing turnovers

Still, Cascade created its own opportunities last week with four takeaways against the Purple Tigers that directly led to 17 points on the board.

"Creating turnovers are just things that happen. In order to get a turnover you have to be at the right place at the right time and do the right thing," Parker said.

Cascade will have to do the same thing again this week in order to pull off an upset, according to Parker.

"After you create a turnover and you get the turnover you have to take advantage of it. I thought we did a very good job of it last week," he said.

Sophomore running back Creed Rose is expected to return to the lineup on Friday after sitting out for most of the third quarter last week with a sore knee.
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Just the basics

Schematically speaking, not a lot has been changed in Cascade's game. During the week's practices, the Champs have focused on making the fundamental plays more efficiently.

"We've not changed a whole lot. We just have to do better at what we do," Parker said.

The Commanders aren't short of any offensive threats, either.

Friendship's offense is as balanced as the Champs have faced this year. The Commanders average 192 passing yards per game while picking up an additional 180 on the ground.

Quarterback A.J. Long has a 60 percent completion ranking for 1,832 yards and 26 touchdowns.

Sophomore Commander running back Steven Hollis has 10 rushing touchdowns on 644 yards for an average of 8.15 yards per carry.

"They have a very athletic quarterback and running back. We have to be very fundamentally sound," Parker said.

Champ power

Still, the Champs have plenty of offensive assets as well.

Sophomore running back Creed Rose carried the ball 23 times for two scores and 145 yards last week while Cody Smith and Dakota Vaught added big runs as well as the team racked up 258 rushing yards.

In addition to Rose stepping in this week, Vaught and Smith will be key in order for the Champs to pick up the win.

"We've got to be versatile. We're not going to be able to be a one-man team and beat these guys. We've got to spread the ball around and we've worked on ways to do that this week. We've got to block up front to make that work," Parker said.

Despite being the leading rusher last week, Rose was sidelined for a good bit of the second half with a sore knee.

Rose improves

"He was banged up a little bit last week. He got sore and stiff at halftime. I told him at that point in the game we were going to hold him for a while just to make sure if we had a chance of playing in the second week, he would be ready," Parker said.

"He's feeling pretty good this week. He's a big part of what we're trying to do."

Despite being the underdogs heading into Friday, Parker feels confident the Champs can line up and compete.

"We have nothing to lose. We're happy being here, but we're not satisfied," Parker said.

Senior wide out Matthew Combs has been a favorite target of freshman quarterback Chandler Sulcer all year. Combs is expected to have a big game on Friday.
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Expect unexpected

Parker expects a lot of audibles by a talented offense, and in order to play the Commanders toe-to-toe, the Champs are going to have to be ready for the unexpected play calls and be able to make the necessary adjustments.

"We have to make sure we shift correctly when they shift. As defense, we have to set the edge," he said.

When all is said and done, Parker said there are three things the Champs have to be able to do in order to knock off the Commanders--block, tackle, and win the turnover battle.

"There's not one key--there's a lot. But one thing is we cannot turn the ball over. They're very good at winning the turnover battle. And they're good of making it work in their favor. We can't miss tackles and blocks. When you get into a good ball game like this, those are the things that always win ball games.

Three-point plan

"In all football games if you win those three battles--if you block the best, tackle the best, and win the turnover battle, you've got a pretty good chance to win the ball game," he said.

Even though the Champs' roster is dominated by underclassmen, if the Champs can do those little things, Parker likes his team's odds.

"We know we're the underdogs. We're going to play loose and just get after it," he said.

Kick off is set for 7 p.m. at Friendship Christian.

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