SCC faces balanced CC
Scotus Central Catholic broke into the Lincoln Journal Star Class C-1 football rankings thanks to a 23-21 rivalry victory over C-2 No. 6 David City Aquinas last week.
The Monarchs are one of several ranked opponents on a 2018 slate that figures to be one of the toughest in Nebraska regardless of classification.
Week 2 brings the first road game of the year at fellow C-1 team Central City – a 16-7 victory over St. Paul in its opener. Though the Bison may not offer the same sort of emotional appeal to the Shamrocks as a week earlier, coach Tyler Linder said they bring a more balanced attack than the traditional run-heavy Aquinas.
“It’s a totally different ballgame that we’re preparing for. Central City still likes to run the ball but not as much. They’re about 50/50, but they spread it out. They’ll go four-wide, five-wide a lot of the time with an empty set,” Linder said. “They’ve got a really good quarterback. He’s a stud. He’s not the best thrower that program has ever had, but he can run it, and he can run it really well.”
Central City’s signal caller is junior Michael Rutherford.
A week ago he went 10 of 17 through the air for 112 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 52 yards and a score on the ground.
His 38-yard pass to Dyllan Lee in the fourth quarter, plus a two-point conversion pass from Rutherford to Lee, sealed the win.
St. Paul led 7-0 after cashing in its first drive on a 9-yard run. The Central City defense was stout the rest of the way.
Scotus had a similar defensive effort until the final 12 minutes.
Down 23-7, Aquinas was forced to rely on the passing game. A 33-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-11 put the Monarchs back in the game. A two-point conversion plus a 60-yard drive two possessions later had them on the doorstep of a tie until the Shamrock defense came up with a sack on the second two-point try.
“Head coaches, you build your practices around your concerns. We’re always going to have concerns about things we can improve. The big thing about last week was, we really dialed in to stop Aquinas’ run game. We felt if we stopped their run game we’d win the game,” Linder said. “Were they able to throw the ball a little bit last week? Yes, but that’s because we were committing a lot of guys to the line of scrimmage.”
Facing a more balanced attack, Scotus will likely line up in a more regular base at Central City. The plan includes five different coverages designed to confuse Rutherford.
“A young high school quarterback will have more trouble reading all of those coverages. I think we’re geared really well to shut down their passing game,” Linder said. “It’s not a ton of vertical threats. It’s more about high-completion throws.”
For the Bison, that means shorter 5-yard passes meant to put players in space and allow the playmakers to make plays. Tackling then becomes extremely important.
“We have to play with the right leverage. What that means is being outside the ball carrier and working from your angle inside because that’s where the help is. If you’re beaten outside, you have to use inside-out leverage and hope the cornerback, outside linebacker or sideline, comes in to play,” Linder said.
“If we understand our leverage well and use it appropriately, tackling shouldn’t be an issue.”
Offensively, Scotus was on pace for more than 350 yards after the first half before stalling after halftime. A fumble, penalties and poor fundamentals such as snaps and handoffs began to plague the Shamrocks.
Penalties though, Linder said, were mostly pre-snap mental errors that are easily fixable. That plus the combination of a humid day, the first week of competition and the first varsity game for some players are all elements that will be missing on Friday.
Also missing will be the rivalry part of the game, something Linder said he is confident the Shamrocks will adjust to in the game.
“We just have to stay grounded in all things. We try not to get too high on things and we try not to look down on any opponent. Every team we play has the potential to beat us if we don’t play well,” he said. “Something I’ve learned, and I continue to echo today, is your team will take on the personality of your seniors. I’m really happy with the way our senior leadership is right now.”
Nate Tenopir is the sports editor for The Columbus Telegram. You can reach him via email at email@example.com