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Cougars look to right ship early

LIVINGSTON — The Cougars will open their season and look to end an abysmal 14-game losing streak on the road Friday night in Uniontown against 2A’s R.C. Hatch. Second-year head coach Lenoise Richey was confident Wednesday that his team will be focused and ready for Friday’s contest, citing last week’s jamboree struggles as a wake-up call for the squad.

“If anything, it has made them more focused,” Richey said. “They see that you have to play every snap and you can’t take an down or any opponent for granted.”

Richey’s team boasts a pass-heavy spread offense with a freshman, Demetrius Brown, as its triggerman.

“Demetrius keeps his composure very well,” Richey said of the nearly unflappable signal-caller who he says displayed tremendous poise last week, despite suffering the consequences of deficiencies along his offensive line.

“I guess that’s the biggest thing we are stressing in practice this week is for our offensive line to allow (Brown) to get in rhythm. All we need is a solid three seconds,” Richey said.

For the first time in a full-contact situation, Brown figures to have all three of his senior receivers available when he takes the field against the Bobcats Friday. Tony Harris, who will also see time at halfback, will join Damonte Tolliver and Dontavia Smith to provide the rookie passer an array of options and security blankets throughout the season.

On the flip side, Richey’s defense will be called upon to defend an improving Bobcat offense that also utilizes the spread.

“Coach (Jammie) Abraham has done a great job with such a young program. They run the spread. And when they run, their bread and butter is the option,” Richey said. “He’s not afraid to put the ball in the air. That’s my biggest concern about them is the deep ball.”

Richey’s secondary showed a susceptibility to deep passing plays last week as it surrendered a combined 29 points against John Essex and Pickens County. Included among those scores was a 24-yard touchdown pass with seconds remaining on the clock that allowed the Hornets to pull out a late victory.

Richey said he would rely heavily on his linebacker corps this week in order to keep the Bobcat offense honest.

“I need for them to do exactly what I said they would do from day one; and that is to be the anchor of that defense,” Richey said.

The sophomore head coach said he expects senior Robert Belle to be a big part of the group’s success. Belle, who recently converted from safety, recorded 13 tackles in only two quarters of play last week to lead the Cougar defensive effort.

“He did a phenomenal job,” Richey said, before pointing out the high motor displayed by sophomore defensive tackle Bobby Nixon, who served as the team’s second leading tackler.

Richey expressed his confidence that if those two players can maintain their performance levels and receive some help from teammates Friday night, the Cougars’ long winless streak could finally come to an end.