Saturday, December 8, 2007

Single-Wing Used as Back up QB

After the way his team has played during its eight-game winning streak and four playoff games, Coach Barry Stewart of Mount Tabor is confident that it will perform well during today’s Class 4-A championship game at BB&T Field.

But Stewart also has one major worry about the Spartans’ opponent, Wilmington Hoggard (14-0).

“Our worry is that they will push us all over the field,” Stewart said.

Today’s game will showcase Mount Tabor’s speed against Hoggard’s brawn. It will be the second championship-game appearance for Mount Tabor, the Class 4-A runner-up in 2003, and it will be the first appearance for Hoggard, a team that is 28-1 over the past two seasons.

Hoggard’s offensive success comes from a big offensive line that has sprung tailback Shawn Sidbury for 1,624 yards. Quarterback Mark Crecco, who was injured in the quarterfinals and played sparingly last week, has practiced this week and likely will see some playing time. But he could share the snaps with Brad Busby, a 6-3 junior who brings an element of added athleticism.

Last week against Southern Durham, Hoggard also added a new wrinkle to its offense, lining up Luke Caldwell, a 6-3 senior and the Vikings’ top receiver, at tailback in a Single-Wing formation.

“They like to pound it at you with the Sidbury kid,” Stewart said. “He can run at you, he can run over you, and he can run around you. He is very athletic. They are a very big and very physical team. They don’t make many mistakes up front.

“Crecco (pronounced cree-co) gives them a little more in the passing game. He has been there for a while and can probably communicate with coaches the things he has seen on the field. Busby is an athlete, which a lot of times, that’s more dangerous. He might not have as good a grasp on the offense, but if he busts a play he can still make something happen.”

Stewart stressed that Hoggard wants to run, as it did in last week’s 21-6 win over Southern Durham. The Vikings rushed on all of their final 37 plays.

On defense, Hoggard has decent size on its line, especially the side that includes Jonathan Cooper. Cooper is a 6-4, 300-pounder who also starts at left guard on offense and has narrowed his Division I choices to three schools, including Wake Forest. Cooper has also been chosen to play in the Shrine Bowl, where he will team with Ed Gainey of Mount Tabor, a senior safety.

Stewart said that the Vikings have a strong secondary and quick linebackers.

“They have the best defense we have seen,” Stewart said. “But we may be one of the better offenses they have seen, especially with the way we have executed in the playoffs.”

Mount Tabor and Hoggard have made their paths to the final look pretty easy - the Spartans have outscored their four playoff opponents 152-55, and Hoggard has outscored its opponents133-51.

Mount Tabor’s season has been a roller-coaster ride, one that started with high expectations, lapsed into mediocrity with three losses in midseason, then rose again with its winning streak.

Since the Spartans have gotten healthy, their performances have been steady and convincing. The only time Mount Tabor has trailed in the playoffs was in the first round. High Point Central took a 7-0 lead in that game, but the Spartans scored 35 points unanswered points to win going away.

In subsequent playoff games against Shelby Crest, Gastonia Ashbrook and Watauga, Mount Tabor had leads of 14-0, 21-0, and 30-0, respectively, before their opponents scored.

Hunter Furr, Mount Tabor’s junior halfback, has averaged 187.8 yards rushing a game in the playoffs, and the Spartans have averaged 279 yards rushing in the playoffs. On defense, the Spartans have limited teams to a little more than 200 yards a game.

Hoggard went virtually untested during the regular season and won its games by no fewer than 16 points. Along the way, the Vikings beat some talented opponents, including New Bern, which will play Charlotte Independence today for the Class 4-AA championship. Hoggard beat New Bern 39-13 in their season opener.

Stewart took his team to BB&T Field last Friday night after it returned from beating Watauga in Boone. He said he wanted to motivate his players to work hard during the past week rather than just enjoy the fact that they had made the big game.

“This team has a character of its own,” Stewart said. “They have developed a lot of character throughout the team with things they have had to overcome. They have a lot of common sense. They understand what’s going on. The kids have great work ethic and they do realize whatever the outcome (today), it will happen based on whatever happened Monday through Friday and the work they put in there.

“We have two programs coming in that are, I don’t want to say exactly at the top of their games, but they are pretty close.”

Winston-Salem Journal
418 N. Marshall St.
Winston-Salem, NC 27101

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