10/19/06 — Eagles hoping to notch 1st conference win

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Eagles hoping to notch 1st conference win

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on October 19, 2006 2:12 PM

SEVEN SPRINGS -- Don't think Friday's clash between Class 1-A Carolina Conference and county rivals Spring Creek and Rosewood is just another football game.

It's much more.

The Gators are celebrating homecoming and need another league win to bolster their playoff seeding.

The Eagles have been grounded the last couple of weeks and seek their initial conference victory of the season. Another loss would damage Rosewood's chances of drawing a favorable seed for the postseason.

And revenge is involved.

Spring Creek earned its first-ever triumph over Rosewood last season.

"I would say, as far as the kids involved in this game, Rosewood is probably their number one biggest rivalry," said Gators coach Roy Whitfield. "Our kids know what's at stake and the importance of this game in reference to our season up to this point."

Rosewood leads the all-time series 4-1, including a spotless 2-0 worksheet in Seven Springs.

"It should be a great contest and Spring Creek always plays well at their place," said Eagles coach Daniel Barrow. "Historically, we've always had battles and close games."

Injuries and turnovers have plagued each team this season.

Eagle quarterback Josh Myers has sustained a couple of concussions and missed playing a few quarters. Heralded tailback Devon Bennett remains doubtful after aggravating a high ankle sprain during the Ayden-Grifton game two weeks ago.

Barrow earlier this week said Bennett "cannot go right now."

Injuries have also affected the Gators on offense. The absence of Ronnie Butler has made Whitfield's team more one-dimensional than he prefers. Senior utility player Josh Wright has shouldered much of the offensive burden since Butler's injury.

Butler played about four series in Friday's loss against Ayden-Grifton.

"Each day and each week he's getting into it a little bit more," said Whitfield. "His playing time will depend on the flow of the game and the situation at that time. He's still not 100 percent.

"We've got to be a little bit more diversified, get more people involved in our offense. The last three or four games we have been one-dimensional."

The Chargers held the Gators to just 114 yards of total offense, which was their second-lowest output of the season.

Each team has committed 10 turnovers in its last two games. The Gators have a minus-14 turnover margin, while the Eagles are at minus-3. Fumbles proved costly for both teams in road conference losses last week.

Barrow and Whitfield both agreed protecting the ball is one of many variables that could factor into Friday's outcome. Each coach also hopes his team excels in the kicking game and gets that "hidden yardage" that helps improve field position on each possession.

Rosewood averages close to 280 yards of total offense and 29 points per game. Myers has accounted for nearly 1,000 yards offensively and 10 touchdowns.

"They do a very good job of running the veer or wishbone, and do a good job of carrying out fakes," said Whitfield. "We've told the kids you have to keep your head up and find the football. Initially, you can't leave your position because if you overpursue the ball, they'll hand off to the second or third back.

"We have to be disciplined."

Discipline is paramount for the Eagles, too, says Barrow.

Spring Creek's skill players, especially Wright, can create problems for opposing defenses because of the different formations the Gators employ on offense. Wright, who averages 117.6 yards per game, is creeping toward the 1,000-yard mark for the season.

"They can take a play that doesn't develop real good at the beginning, but all of a sudden break it because of their athleticism," said Barrow. "We have do the best we can to contain Josh, but they've got some other weapons, too.

"Once we contain them, we have to be there inside-out and we have to make sure we're in the right coverage."

The Gators are 2-2 at home this season, while the Eagles are 1-2 in road games.