By Shawn Wood
For The Daily Item
MILLERSBURG — One week after beating Halifax, their cross-town rivals, Brad Hatter and the Millersburg Indians have their work cut out for them.
“While it was a good win for us, I wasn’t pleased as to how we came out and started the game,” he said.
The Indians (2-2 overall. 2-1 Tri-Valley League) have just their second home game of the season on Friday night and its against undefeated Pine Grove.
“We did respond and played better in the second half at Halifax, but we have to play better at home,” Hatter said. “I thought we would have been more motivated to start the game.”
It’s the motivation — especially the way the team came out and played in the TVL opener at Line Mountain — that Hatter wants to see from his team on Friday night.
“For some reason, going into the game against Line Mountain we had a mentality that we haven’t duplicated since,” he said. “We have to play that kind of football with that type of effort against Line Mountain if we expect to win on Friday.”
Because of back issues, junior quarterback Ethan Troutman has been replaced by freshman quarterback Christian Wingard.
“With Ethan right now, its week-to-week, but Christian had some nice reads with the option last week and he played fairly well,” Hatter said. “Some of his passes were off the mark and we had some open receivers, but with time, that can be corrected.”
Another player that has stepped up as a result of an injury is sophomore Gavin Carter on the offensive and defensive lines.
“He’s molding into one of our better linemen, but he’s a bit nicked up and so we’ll see if we have him for Friday,” Hatter noted.
Hatter went on to say that the team has to attack and swarm the ball on defense as Pine Grove has a good running game.
For Cardinals coach Jeff Sampson, the first four weeks of this season have been a lot better than the first four weeks of last year.
“We were 0-4 to start the season last year and we are doing much better this year at 4-0,” he said.
Sampson attributed the good start to senior leadership.
“We had only three seniors last year and we had a lot of sophomores and juniors and this year we have 14-15 seniors with a lot more experience this year,” he said. “We are pleased as to where we are at this time and we are taking it one game at a time.”
Another reason for the early-season success for the Cardinals is the play of running back Ryan Heim.
“You wouldn’t think that, for a 165-pound running back, he would be hard to take down, but he’s got a burst of speed at times that makes it tough for just one guy to take him down,” he said.
Heim is third in the TVL averaging 7 yards per carry and 144.7 per game.
“We’re blocking better up front and the offensive line is a lot better than last year.” Sampson continued. “We’re more of a run-based team and we have established the line of scrimmage and our defensive coordinator has done a great job in getting the defense ready each week.”
Sampson noted that Wingard for Millersburg is a mobile kid who will be their main focus on defense and that he runs the option real well.