From his team’s four turnovers to the inconsistent play of his secondary to a second-quarter stretch where a scoreless game broke out into a 33-0 halftime deficit, Smith-Cotton coach Mark Johnson — seated in his Jennie Jaynes Stadium office Tuesday afternoon before practice — went through a laundry list of problems surrounding the team’s 47-7 loss Friday at Nixa.
Using a term Johnson referred to frequently in the Tigers’ 12-1, state quarterfinal campaign of 2008 and again in the 8-2 season of 2009, the Tigers were turbo-clocked.
“Nixa outmanned us last week,” Johnson said. “They’re a better football team than us, a lot more physical. They have 90 kids to pick from and we have 41 to pick from so it’s really hard to compete.”
Well, it doesn’t get any easier this week.
With kickoff scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday at Jennie Jaynes Stadium, the Tigers host Class 4’s third-ranked Helias Crusaders (0-1), who are coming off a 38-37 loss at second-ranked Harrisonville in the regular-season opener.
“It’s going to be a challenge, but we knew our first three games in particular were going to be tough,” said Johnson, whose team next week travels to Hickman before beginning West Central Conference play. “So we just have to be better this week than we were last week.”
He did, however, highlight at a couple of positives to take away from last week’s rout.
For instance, he applauded the start from his defense, which forced three turnovers in the first 11 minutes and didn’t allow a score until 9:37 left in the second quarter.
“I thought, first quarter, our kids played about as well as they can play,” Johnson said.
But then, pointing to pair of meltdowns in the secondary that allowed a 45-yard touchdown connection between Austin Schweiss and Mason Rohr on third and 19 and later a completion to convert a fourth and 11, Johnson said there were a series of missteps in the last 10 minutes of the second quarter.
“We had some players that weren’t accountable,” he said. “They didn’t stay where they belonged. When people don’t do their job defensively, the big plays always have a way of finding you.”
But in a second half where the Tigers allowed just two scores and forced their fourth turnover, Johnson again found a positive.
“I was very disappointed with our effort in the second quarter, and then I thought in the third and fourth quarter we came back out and battled again,” he said.
The Tigers’ defense will look to continue the momentum against a gunslinging offense featuring 6-foot-2 junior quarterback Wyatt Porter, who will rely on the sure-handed trio of seniors Anthony Woodruff (6-1) and Cole Distler (6-0) and junior Ryan Tannehill (6-2) — not to be mistaken with the Miami Dolphins play-caller.
“They’re going to throw the ball four times out of every five snaps,” Johnson said. “The quarterback’s very talented.”
Shifting Chance McMullin from running back to wideout in order to give quarterback Dakota Brown a reliable weapon downfield, the Tigers will look to emulate the Crusaders’ aerial attack.
“We need more of a perimeter game,” said Johnson, who pointed out that the Tigers will have their hands full with a solid Helias 4-3 unit.
To fortify the backfield, Johnson said Marquez Scroggins, Trevor Rialti and Tyler Slawson will share the load alongside lead back Henry Contreras, who busted a 35-yard run last week for S-C’s lone score.
But while there are a few shuffles and adjustments being made, Johnson was adamant the Tigers are going to stick with the same 4-4 defense and option offense they’ve been using since practice began.
“We’re just going to keep doing what we’ve been doing and get better at it,” he said. “That’s the plan.”
Helias at Smith-Cotton
7 p.m. Friday at Jennie Jaynes Stadium
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