By Jack Mariano
When Octorara’s Football Braves take the field this Friday evening on the home turf of the Fleetwood Tigers, they need to keep a few things in mind.
The first thing is, don’t fall behind early. Tenth-year Coach Jedd King assured me last week that the team has been working on better preparation for the start of the season.
Last year, playing a “home” game at Pequea Valley Stadium, the Braves fell behind Fleetwood early due to several miscues, giving up the football and trailed the Tigers 17-0 at halftime.
The second item the Blue and Red need to keep in mind is that they have a very talented quarterback with a year’s worth of game experience in his back pocket.
A year ago, 10th grade Quarterback Alex Gooden struggled with snap exchanges and poor blocking support from his offensive line. The signal caller learned how to overcome the poor line play, create his own opportunities, and finished the year as the second leading rusher in the Ches-Mont league, behind a running back from Kennett.
Gooden’s 1,231 yards rushing showed that the young quarterback has talent. Gooden’s passing game also improved during last year’s campaign.
Incidentally, in last year’s game against Fleetwood, the swift footed Gooden ran back a kickoff for a 60 yard Braves touchdown, the only one of the game. Octorara lost the game 24 to 8 and the contest left a battered and weary Gooden walking off of the field alone.
Coach King lamented about his team’s lack of offense in last year’s game against Fleetwood but was encouraged by the way the defense came together in the second half, holding the Tigers to just seven, second half points.
According to Max Preps High School Sports, as the season begins, Octorara is rated 402nd in the state while the Tigers aren’t that far away at 382nd.
When the locals enter into Ches-Mont schedule in late September, they will be facing much larger schools and tougher teams. It will be important to get a couple of early season wins.
Two seasons ago the Braves tallied 35 points at the home field of the Fleetwood Tigers. Octorara may not reach that goal this year and although we know nothing about this season’s Tigers squad, coached by James Martinez, I feel Octorara has a good shot at winning this one.
Look for Gooden to score a couple of TDs on the ground and he may just even complete a strike in the air.
My prediction: A close Octorara victory at 21 to 20 over Fleetwood.
Jack Mariano is a contributing writer.