SCHERTZ, Texas — When the Converse Judson Rockets and Clemens Buffaloes take the field Friday night in Schertz, the eyes of Texas will be upon the two ISDs and their undefeated football teams.
Both of these teams, though, are lucky enough to have plenty of guys who have been there before. Clemens (7-0, 4-0) has 42 seniors, and nearly all the starters have played in big games as such.
“They’ve been in big ball games. I’m not worried about the atmosphere, sometimes when you have a kid who’s never been in the atmosphere, you may worry about it a little bit,” Clemens coach Jared Johnston said. “I’m excited about it, they’re excited about it.”
Judson (7-0, 4-0) has gotten the best effort from every team so far this season and coach Sean McAuliffe knows it. Thankfully for the Rockets, their coach is no stranger to the limelight.
MCAULIFFE AT THE HELM
Since picking up the mantle as the head guy in Converse, McAuliffe teams have yet to win less than nine games. To keep the streak going, his staff is always looking to get better at everything from running routes to an offensive lineman’s footwork.
“It’ s just a fundamentally sound program we’re trying to run,” McAuliffe said. “Each day we try to get a little bit better at the stuff that we do. I think if you’re done searching after seven weeks of football, you’re probably not going to play much more football very much longer after the 10 weeks you get.”
This week, the Rockets are focusing on technique. They’ll have a challenge on Friday facing the Buffaloes 4-3 defense and their strong defensive tackles who can all shift the course of the game.
TECHNIQUE VERSUS THE 3-4
Savien Jenkins, Daniel Williams, and Shadane Brown will all look to stop Sincere McCormick, who enters Friday’s game averaging 10 yards per carry.
McAuliffe says the Rockets are fully aware of this, as the Buffaloes have allowed only 55 points all year. To counteract, Judson hopes its offensive line is ready for anything they throw at them, as he knows they will need to remain patient throughout the night.
“Our offensive line is going to have to play well,” McAuliffe said. “They’re going to need to be able to control those two big boys. We’re going to have to get a push on their defensive ends, in our gap schemes, be able to get those guys pinned or kicked out. Depending on how they decide to play their techniques against us. When we do throw the football, we’re going to have to do a good job of protecting. Their interior guys do a good job of getting pressure, that has to do that they are high motor kids.”
If Johnston has his way, the Rockets won’t get the chance for its line to dominate. As the Buffaloes have a dominant running back in Marshawn Brown, who can help keep the clock on their side.
“One of the things we were able to do last week, we were able to run the football and run the clock and keep them off the field,” Johnston said of his offense. “We only had eight first downs, but we were snapping the ball with one second on the clock, fighting for every inch.”
Brown will likely have more than his share of first downs, as he is averaging 5.5 yards a carry on the season.
JUDSON KEYS TO VICTORY
The pressure will come, as Clemens has 17 sacks in its seven games this year. If Judson can keep the Buffaloes defensive front tame, it can expect Julon Williams to improve on his season. So far, Williams has more than 1,300 passing yards, matched with 633 yards on the ground. With three games left, Williams is a threat at a 1,500/1,000 yard season.
For Judson to continue its dominant streak, it will need to control the pace of the game. However, Clemens’ rushing attack will keep the game clock on its side.
“They are a very sound, functioning, clock-eating offense with some really good talent over there on the backfield and on the offensive line,” McAuliffe said.
JUDSON KEYS TO VICTORY
Stop Judson quarterback Julon Williams. Williams has over 1,300 passing yards, matched with more than 600 on the ground. Coach Johnston said he is aware there will be a few big plays, but the goal is to limit those and make them try again.
“We have to eliminate the big play,” Johnston said of his dominant defense. “That’s our goal going in, eliminate the big play. They’re going to make plays. Heck, he may make a 20-yard run, but don’t let it be a 60 yard run for a touchdown. Make him snap the ball again.”
Another will be to not let this game get to big for the players. As mentioned, the Buffaloes have plenty of players who have played in big games. In fact, most of the team was a part of the 2015 team that went 11-3 and played at the Alamo Dome in front of 22,000.
A win would be big and put Clemens in the district driver seat. But as cliche, as it sounds, it knows the way to go is one step at a time.
“Our ultimate goal is to win a state championship,” Johnston said. “We know every week is a big ball game for us. Our goal is to get in the playoffs. You’re not in, our goal is to get in. You can’t win state without getting into the playoffs.”
Kickoff is 7:30 Friday at Robert and Glenda Lehnhoff Stadium in Schertz, Texas. Two undefeated teams will enter, one will survive.
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