The Ashbrook Green Wave (2-2) arguably may not be as dominant as past years, but donâ€™t try to tell that to East Lincoln Mustangsâ€™ head coach Matt Rikard.
â€œThey are not the monster theyâ€™ve been the past two years, but they are still very, very good,â€ he said with respect in his voice.
The Mustangs have had two weeks to prepare for the vaunted Ashbrook Green Wave coming off an impressive 26-12 victory over North Lincoln in their last contest.
To beat the Green Wave, Rikard believes the Mustangs will need to eat up plenty of clock. â€œWe need ball control because theyâ€™re strong point is their offense, so our best defense against that is to keep the ball,â€ he said.
Junior running back Ryan Skyes had near 200 yards rushing against the North Lincoln Knights.
Rikard wants him to continue to put together big outings but also is looking for more help.
â€œHe has to have a big game, but we also have to have some other people step up and start contributing a little more because Sykes alone is not going to carry this football team.â€
Despite last yearâ€™s lopsided loss to the Wave, Rikard feels his team can play with Ashbrook. â€œAshbrookâ€™s defense is not large as they were last year. They are still very good, but I feel pretty confident that weâ€™ll be able to be competitive with them,â€ he said.
The Waveâ€™s offensive attack starts with their talented quarterback Cole Russell. Russell was 12-21 for a 124 yards in a 41-14 loss to Freedom last week.
Rikard and his staff have taken notice of him and another piece of Ashbrookâ€™s offensive unit.
â€œHe does a great job as far as running the option and commanding it. They have a very, very big offensive line. If they had their choice they would like to line up and just mush it down the field on you,â€ he said.
So what type of qualities stick out to the coach when immersed in film on his teamâ€™s opponent?
â€œThey have a lot of speed. Their receiving corps and Eric Boyce are quick.â€
One hindrance to the Mustangsâ€™ possible success this season has been their inability to maintain control of the football which has translated into turnovers.
â€œWe have to create turnovers and stop coughing the ball up ourselves. The biggest problem for us is an inability at practice to simulate game speed. Thatâ€™s not lack of effortâ€”itâ€™s a lack of personnel,â€ Rikard said.
The coach does believe he knows why the turnover bug has bitten them so much in the early-going.
â€œAnytime you pull up a JV player and youâ€™re practicing against them, thatâ€™s not going to be the same as it will be on Friday night against a varsity player. They do a good job of giving effort but itâ€™s not the same.â€
by John Mark Brooks