BUILDING BLOCKS | Cochrane-Fountain City football team building confidence by winning the second half

August 27, 2018

FOUNTAIN CITY — The Cochrane-Fountain City football team is off to an 0-2 start with a pair of lopsided losses to Pepin/Alma and Cambridge, but it has never given up.

After entering halftime with seemingly insurmountable deficits, in each game coach Steve Lyga has told his squad to win the second half. And they have done as he has asked.

They went into the break trailing 26-0 in their first game against P/A and 28-0 against Cambridge, but outscored the Eagles 12-6 and the Blue Jays 14-7 in the second half.

“In both games I go in and challenge them and say ‘we can’t do anything about how we played in the first half,” Lyga said. “But you’ve got to get something out of this. You’ve got to prove that you can play. You’ve got to win the second half.’ And we won the second half against today. We just have to come to play in the first half.”

Both games seemed to follow the same first-half script. Special teams blunder leads to an early deficit, turnovers create short fields for the opponent, and before you know it, C-FC finds itself with a big hole to climb out of.

Against Pepin/Alma, the Pirates fumbled the opening kickoff and the Eagles were on the board under a minute into the game. And against Cambridge, they went 3-and-out and the Blue Jays returned the punt for a touchdown. Each time the Pirates trailed by a touchdown less than 2 minutes into the game. Against talented teams, that is a tough place to find yourself.

But the Pirates are taking their licks and keeping on fighting.

“The one thing we have to do — we have to be more aggressive,” the coach said. “We have to start coming up hard and not being backed into the corner as a prize fighter and then deciding that we’re going to try to win round 14 and 15. It’s just not going to happen.”

Although winning the second halves hasn’t led to marks in the win column, it is an important step in the growth of the team. Once things start to go right, the coach said, more and more things will go right.

“We are still learning,” Lyga said. “I really feel (quarterback Brady) Drazkowski came into his own as a quarterback. Putting the ball where his receivers should have caught it. Did we catch a lot of them? No. Our receivers have to be focused. We could have had one, maybe two passing touchdowns in the first half where we had guys wide open and they just dropped them.”

The quarterback looked like a different player in the second half of Friday’s game against Cambridge than he did in the first. He threw two first-half interceptions, but came back in the second half and scored a pair of touchdowns. The first-year starting quarterback threw a touchdown pass to fellow senior Aiden Coey to cap an 80-yard 15-play drive. And he got into the end zone again on a 70-yard run on fourth-and-3.

“We needed three yards on a fourth down play and we called an iso up the middle and he got through,” Lyga said. “He showed a little bit of his athleticism and that was a confidence builder for him as a runner. He made good decisions, he made good cuts. We had a couple of good blocks that sprung him on it. The more confidence he can get as a first-year quarterback, the better off he’s going to be in the future.”

The defense has also stepped up its play as the games have worn on. Cambridge took whatever it wanted on the ground in the first half as running back Riley Olson racked up 137 yards before the break. But the Blue Jays found running lanes harder to come by in the second half as the Pirates got more aggressive and attacked the ball.

“We’re just finding out that we’re not aggressive enough,” Lyga said. “We’re sitting back and waiting to make the tackle when they’ve already gained a lot of yards on it. We have to be aggressive. We talked about that last week.”

C-FC will look to stay positive and continue its growth as it moves forward with its schedule. The first chance to see that growth is Friday as it hosts Augusta.

“The kids are growing together,” the coach said.T”he coaches keep it so positive with the kids. Maybe we’re going to have to get after them a little bit more, but we’re trying to keep it positive to build their confidence a little bit more.”

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