By Shawn Wood
For The Daily Item
MANDATA — The theme for the 2013 edition of the Line Mountain Eagles is finish the game.
It’s something the players have been hearing from second-year head coach Rodney Knock following last year’s playoff loss to Southern Columbia.
They get the chance to answer that mantra Friday night when they host Phillipsburg-Osceola in the season opener.
Last year, Line Mountain (8-3) was 12 minutes away from defeating the Tigers as they took a 21-7 lead into the fourth quarter, only to have the Tigers rally for the win.
It was one of three losses last season — the other two to Tri-Valley and Williams Valley— where the Eagles could not hold a late-game lead.
This year, Knock has just three seniors and a ton of juniors in his starting lineup that are tasked with living up to their workout t-shirts they wore during the wintertime which said “championships are won in the offseason.”
Starting quarterback Ryan Reed spent the last two seasons as the junior varsity quarterback. He’s replacing Cole Rickert threw for 1,138 yards last year.
“We ask a lot of our quarterbacks here at Line Mountain and Ryan is settling into the position well and is gaining an understanding of our offense,” Knock said. “We expect to see him improve each week.”
Following two scrimmages, Knock said he saw the team progressing in a positive manner and that the offense was getting better.
“We’re pretty much solid on offense and defense,” he said.
Heading into Friday’s game, Knock said the defense, which is anchored by a solid defensive line and linebackers Cory Warford and Rayce Boyer, is a bit ahead of the offense at the moment.
“Cory and Rayce are doing a great job in setting up the defense so far,” he said. “We are getting lined up quicker this year than in the past.”
Last year, the Eagles made the four-hour drive to Phillipsburg-Osceola and won 50-6
That was last year.
“They were young last year and didn’t have the size up front they do this year.” Knock said of the Mounties. “Their quarterback has a strong arm and he’s good with the touch pass. They have some fullbacks that are quick and bruising. They are much improved from last year.”
Knock went on to say that the home opener should be a good test for his team.
“We feel pretty good going into Friday night and the kids are champing at the bit to play,” he noted. “I keep telling the kids, we have to finish; whether it’s tackling, blocking, or our runs, we have to finish and that is our focus, to finish the game this year. If we do that, we’ll be satisfied after Friday night with the game results.”
Phillipsburg-Osceola went winless last season. The Mounties were outscored 439-55.