Getting out of the gate

Published 9:02 pm Wednesday, August 27, 2008

NEWBERN — Sunshine will travel north Friday night to open its season at new 1A, Region 3 foe Holy Spirit. The clash of the Titans and Tigers is one of three week one contests between Region 3 rivals, prompting Sunshine head coach Jonathan Jenkins to emphasize the importance of opening the season with a victory.

“This week will set the pace within the region,” Jenkins, who will lead his Tigers against regional opponents in each of the season’s first three weeks, said. “The first three opponents all made the playoffs. It is very important to get out the gate. If we can win one of those three, we’re still alive. If we win two, we’re in good shape. If we don’t win any, we’re dead in the water.”

According to Jenkins, one advantage Sunshine has as it heads into Friday night is a slight experience edge. That proposed advantage comes by virtue of the fact that Holy Spirit was unable to play its jamboree game last week.

“We, of course, got to play ours and saw some mistakes we needed to correct,” Jenkins said. “The advantage that we have is that they weren’t able to see their mistakes. But we’ve got to capitalize on that.”

Jenkins said he anticipates the teams will match up well Friday night.

“Our strength is of course the (defensive) line and they graduated their (offensive) line,” Jenkins said. “Their strength is skill players and we graduated our defensive backs.”

The Tigers’ young secondary will likely be asked to grow up early as the Titans are expected to show little reluctance in putting the ball in the air.

“They return their quarterback. They’re going to throw a lot,” Jenkins said of a team that went 6-5 in 2007 after a first-round playoff exit. “They run some I. They’re mixing it up fairly well.”

Jenkins said that despite last week’s struggles, he expects his defense to step up in its first full test of the season.

“We have one of the most experienced defenses with eight returning starters,” Jenkins said.

Additionally, the coach said he is looking for continued growth from his young offensive line.

“The offensive line looked very well in the jamboree. I was very pleased. We missed a few blocks, but we put together two drives,” Jenkins said of a group that has developed an unexpected depth. “In the offensive line, we’re alternating about eight guys and we’re trying to find a ninth guy.”

If that front proves successful Friday night, it will go a long way in freeing up the Tigers’ tailback tandem of Tevin Griffin and Shaun McCalpine. Both runners boast 4.4 speed out of the backfield, providing twin big play threats. Griffin scored both Sunshine touchdowns in last week’s jamboree, including a 66-yard run.