One fact has really helped McMinn County as it prepares for the latest chapter of the Black and Blue rivalry game — it is already familiar with McMinn Central’s new coach and what he likes to do.
After all, the Cherokees have scrimmaged Polk County for the last several years, whom Chargers head man Derrick Davis had led up until last season for 19 years.
“He’s going to pound 11 in tight right there, hold on to the ball and pound away at you and try to play keep-away and keep it close to the end,” said McMinn Coach Bo Cagle.
And that is something McMinn’s defense does not want to allow Central to do when the Cherokees visit Charger Stadium for the 7:30 p.m. kickoff Friday to begin the season.
“You’ve got to get them off the field,” Cagle said. “You can’t let them sit there and get three yards a pop and get first downs and run the clock.”
Cagle hinted that the eye discipline of the Tribe secondary will be a major key, so as to be prepared for any play-action passing the Chargers will want to do out of their slotted wing.
“And we’ve seen that happen scrimmaging Polk County the last several years,” Cagle said. “We’ll get our eyes in the backfield, then they’ll have receivers run right past us and be open in the secondary.”
And while McMinn has an idea of what Central and Davis want to do offensively, it will still come down to the players to stop it and show some toughness.
“He’s one of those coaches who is going to do what he does, he’s going to figure out the best way to do it with the kids he’s got, but they’re going to do what they do,” Cagle said.
“We’re expecting a really hard-fought game. They’re going to be tough-nosed kids who get after you and play four quarters and play hard, for sure.”
Offensively, the Tribe will want to avoid the self-inflicted wounds that have led to an inconsistent preseason. McMinn will want to put together the type of performance it had against Red Bank on Thursday, as opposed to its other three outings.
“The one scrimmage where we weren’t getting penalties from offside or fumbling the ball or having missed assignments, we had a pretty good day,” Cagle said. “We put it all together on one day, and then it hadn’t looked the same on any other time at all.”
The county rivalry is one that McMinn has won all but once over the last 31 years. As such, it’s always the Cherokees feeling the pressure when they play Central.
“It’s a no-win situation for us,” Cagle said. “We should win, and if we win, everyone says, ‘Yeah, you should’ve won.’ And if you lose, then the whole season is gone.”
At the same time, Cagle just wants to see a good game from both teams involved.
“The one thing hopefully that we do is bring out the best in our opponent, and they play their best football against us, and they do the same for us, and we have a really good game against each other,” Cagle said.
“We’ll be playing a lot of those games for him,” Cagle said.