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Mustangs ready for Berry

The East Lincoln Mustangs enter Friday’s game against Berry Academy with both trying to crawl their way out of the cellar of the Big South 3A Conference.
The Mustangs have had good passing games and at times ran the ball well, but turnovers have offset a strong defensive performance.

Offense
Mustangs head coach Matt Rikard believes they can run the ball against that the Cardinals. A key cog in the Mustangs’ engine could be junior running back Ryan Sykes, who at times has been spectacular.
“Ryan needs to control his emotions as a football player, so he can help the team instead of putting us in bad situations. When he does that, he’s a huge asset to the offense,” Rikard said.
Grayson Schram had a career night last week against Forestview connecting on 17-of-34 passes and throwing for 251 yards. Rikard has been pleased with his progression.
“He’s doing a good job throwing the ball and the receivers are doing a good job. We’ve got to stop putting the defense in bad situations. A lot of the scores the opposing offense has gotten on us have been on a short field,” he said.
The coach believes that the 4-3 look from the Cardinals and what defensive plays they’re running will dictate what they do on offense.
“We’ll just kind of feel our way through and see what they’re giving us. Hopefully, since the passing game has improved it will loosen up the defense and we’ll be able to run the ball some,” Rikard said.

Defense
The Cardinals on offense run the I-Formation. Against the Jaguars, Rikard felt it wasn’t a matter of what his opponent was doing as much as it was lack of execution on the defensive end.
“We’ve got to tackle better. Last week, we had people around the ball and for some reason we started arm tackling. Against any team on the high school level, you’re not going to be able to do that,” he said.
Berry enters the game winless (0-6 and 0-2 in the Big South 3A), but Rikard and staff refuses to take them too lightly.
“They’re athletic. They have their back up against the wall and don’t have anything to lose. They’ll fling it deep for basically no reason at all, so we have to be ready for anything,” he said.

X-factor
The Mustangs will look to Sykes and Russell Mahaffey to make some things happen on special teams. Rikard believes that unit could play a major part in Friday’s game.
“I think the special teams will step up and put a couple of touchdowns on the board. We need that because our offense has been struggling a little bit.”by John Mark Brooks

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