Mental mistakes, penalties and turnovers have haunted the Pierce City Eagles football team through the first four weeks of the season. The Eagles, in their first three contests of the season, found ways to overcome the adversity and win games.
Playing with this fire finally caught up with the Eagles last Friday as the Greenfield Wildcats left Don Keebaugh Stadium with a 27-26 victory over the previously eighth-ranked Pierce City squad.
"This year has been tough," said Pierce City head coach Mac Whitehead. "I know we are a young team, but there comes a time when you can't use that as a valid excuse. In my opinion, coaches are responsible for 98 percent of their team's preparedness. That being said, when the rubber hits the pavement, you can't go out there and make the run, pass, block or tackle for them."
The Eagles are still searching for the right mix of players to put on the football field.
"This week at practice we have stopped and evaluated each position on the team," said Whitehead. "Friday night we may not put the best athletes on the field but the best set of players that work as a group."
In four games this season, the Eagles have turned the ball over 10 times compared to only 12 turnovers all of last season and amassed nearly 300 yards in penalties. Twice, the Eagles have been called for a false start or off sides penalty on the first play from scrimmage.
"It is just frustrating," said Whitehead. "When the lights come on Friday, we will be ready to play."
One bright spot for Pierce City this week is the expected return of Wayne Joe Sooter.
"Wayne Joe gives us a big boost in speed and a big play threat," said Whitehead. "Bo Vincent did a wonderful job in Wayne's absence. I was very pleased with how Bo stepped up for the team."
In order for Pierce City to be successful on Friday look for them to try to play keep away from Jasper in an attempt to eat a lot of clock on each drive.
Defensively, Kenny O'Hara will have a high pressure defensive scheme drawn up for his blitz-happy defense.
Jasper enters the game with a 0-3 record. Having won only three games in its last 30 tries, Jasper is looking for some positive signs.
"I think this team is heading in the right direction," said Josh Dirks, Jasper's head coach. "Zero and three isn't where we wanted to be, but we are a very young team and still learning as we go."
Jasper features a split back formation and wants a 50-50 blend of run to pass.
"Pierce City is what they always are: big and physical," said Dirks. "Stopping (Curtis) Palmer will be key for us, Sooter's speed is hard to recreate in practice, and Cedric O'Hara is dangerous outside of the tackle. We will have to be disciplined."
Jasper will run a four-three style defense and want to force Pierce City to throw the ball to beat them.
"If we can limit Pierce City's ground game and force them to throw, I like our chances," said Dirk
Kickoff in Pierce City is set for 7 p.m.