Eagles, Hornets ready to renew rivalry

Published 6:30 pm Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The John Essex Hornets enter Thursday night’s showdown against region rival A.L. Johnson with at least one distinct advantage. The Hornets have already had an opportunity to work out some of the kinks.

New head coach Lenoise Richey took his team to Uniontown last week to face R.C. Hatch in a Jamboree game that ended in a scoreless tie. Conversely, A.L. Johnson saw its Jamboree affair with Wilcox-Central cancelled due to unfavorable weather conditions.

“I kind of believe they are even more anxious to play now,” ALJ head coach Mose Jones said of his players. “We’re kind of tired of hitting each other, getting after each other and looking at each other’s face.”

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The eager Eagles will get their first opportunity to hit somebody else Thursday when John Essex comes to call for the season opener. That contest is a renewal of a traditional rivalry whose last chapter saw the Eagles romp to a 40-0 win.

In view of avoiding a similar result this season, Richey’s team has spent the early part of the week attempting to rectify the mistakes it made during the Hatch Jamboree.

“Finishing, in terms of finishing the play as well as finishing a ball game,” Richey said of the Hornets’ focus. “We had a few encroachments. We’ve got to get better on those as well. Repetition, timing, making sure we’re sound in terms of assignment.”

While the final statistics bore little indication of it, Richey said the Hornet offense showed signs of life.

“There were times throughout the night where I was pleased with the progress,” Richey said. “If we don’t shoot ourselves in the the foot, we’ll be fine offensively.”

Less than two months into Richey’s tenure as the head coach, the Hornets are still learning a watered-down version of their new offensive system. Last week’s manifestation of the scheme showed a spread set that featured a great deal of option. Jones said his team is prepared for the new look.

“We’re looking to see a lot of passes, throws downfield and a lot of shotgun,” Jones said. “We’ll have our hands full trying to contain the quarterback.”

As for his team’s counterpunch, Jones has no reservations about what the Eagles will look to do.

“We plan on running a lot ourselves,” Jones said.

“It’s a seasoned coach with a veteran team. I think they’re going to do very well in the region. This one will tell us real quick where we’re at,” Richey said. “I expect for ALJ to do one thing, that’s hit us in the mouth. I look for us to take a punch and throw one back.”

A crucial piece to the Eagles’ offensive puzzle and its ability to successfully run the football has remained unsolved for Jones. However, as game time approaches, the long-time A.L. Johnson coach said he has gained confidence in his young center.

“I’m still a little bit concerned about my starting center. But in scrimmages, he’s been looking real good. He’s a young kid, just a ninth grader,” Jones said. “We’ve got all that figured out. Now we just need somebody across from us to play ball.”