Longhorns ready for high octane offense

Published 10:06 pm Tuesday, October 6, 2009

LINDEN – Marengo Academy (4-3, 2-1) may be riding a three-game winning streak, but head coach Robby James is far from comfortable. He excited about the progression of his team. However, the first-year MA head coach realizes how high octane of an offense the Longhorns will face Thursday in Linden.

“They look like a whole different team,” James said, comparing Prattville Christian Academy (5-2) with the perennial basement dweller it has been in previous years. “They’ve got great speed. They come out in an offense that looks a lot like West Virginia and then they line up in an (I-formation) and run it right at you. They do a lot of things.”

Marengo enters the game on a winning streak that has seen victories over Kingwood, East Memorial and Escambia. Prattville is right off a 53-14 thrashing of Meadowview Christian. PCA’s only region loss came against one of the best teams in the AISA.

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“They lost to Bessemer in a close game,” James said of the 26-6 loss to No. 6 Bessemer Academy. Prattville’s other loss, a 52-6 thrashing, came out of region against the state’s former No. 1 team, Fort Dale Academy

Planning for PCA has proven more difficult than previous opponents. Against EMCA, the Longhorns prepped for the quarterback. Against Escambia, it was the fullback that worried James’ staff. As the clash with PCA looms, James is finding it hard to focus on any one player.

“They’ve got three or four guys that can touch the ball at anytime,” James said.

Prattville, like Marengo, has seen its 2008 success come under the watch of a head coach in his first year with the team. For PCA, it has been Gray Powell that has led the way.

“He said his guys have learned how to win,” James said of a conversation he had with Powell recently. “They compete. To me, they’re the best team we’ve played.”

Aside from trying to limit a potent offensive attack, the Longhorns will have to remain on guard on special teams as PCA takes a unique approach to the kicking game.

“They onside kick it every time,” James said. “They’ve got faith in their defense. They just run away from everyone.”

Still James likes his team as he gets set for one of the more unheralded threats in the AISA.

“Our guys have improved a lot,” he said. “I can’t ask for more out of our guys. They played hard and played well.”

The Longhorns, who have been without starting fullback Matt Etheridge over the last couple of games, have received a boost from the arrival of transfer of Zack Smith.

“He’s helped us a lot,” James said of the back who rushed for 94 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries a week ago. “Competition just helps us. It’s good for our team to see him do well. It just gives us another weapon to put out there.”

While Smith has been a blessing, James is also excited to get Etheridge back from injury and on the field.

“I’m anxious to see him get back in there,” James said of Etheridge’s impending return, an event that will leave the Longhorns with three dangerous backs in Smith, Etheridge and leading rusher Rabe Hale.

For now, James and his team are focused on PCA, limiting the opposing offense by playing a ball control style and creating for themselves an opportunity to win the game.

“We’ve got to try to control it and keep it close,” James said.

Marengo Academy and Prattville Christian Academy are scheduled to kick off Thursday night in Linden at 7 p.m.