On Friday night, the Warren G. Harding Raiders traveled to Youngstown State University's Stambaugh Stadium to play the red hot Ursuline Irish. After starting the game on defense, Ursuline took the opening drive for a touchdown, leading 6-0 after Harding prevented the two point conversion.
On the next drive, the Raiders' offense stalled after an incompletion on a deep shot to receiver Khamari Adams, who could not come down with the football. Adams had an up and down game but is a threat on offense and should be an impact player this week versus the Chaney Cowboys.
As the night progressed, the Raiders defense could not stop Ursuline's high octane offensive attack. The Irish scored on all of their possessions up until the fourth quarter when the junior varsity players were on the field. While it was not the showing that the Raiders, the entire community, and coaching staff wanted, there is a solid opportunity that awaits in week six versus a Youngstown team in Chaney who is sitting at 2-2.
The best thing to do after a game that finished with a 20-56 final, is to come to work on Monday and continue to take it one day at a time. There have been an onslaught of injuries that have occurred but the message instilled throughout the season is still "No Excuses". Execution is a must and the next two weeks versus Chaney and Boardman will provide the team with an ability to get back on track. However, the focus this week is on the Chaney Cowboys and while they have just one more win than the Raiders, they return eighteen letter winners and look to instill their dominance at Mollenkopf Stadium on Friday night.
Chaney's head coach Seth Antram returns for year two and has been successful after going 10-2 a season ago. In 2023, his team is off to a 2-2 record, sitting at .500. Chaney registered back-to-back wins versus Boardman and Marlington. Their two losses come from a one-point defeat to East in week one (13-14) and a 14-35 loss last week to Canfield.
The Cowboys return a multitude of athletes from a season ago. Their offense is explosive and makes plays, their defense is physical and can "punch you in the mouth" (metaphorically speaking). While they lost a decent amount of playmakers including Michigan's Jason Hewlett and DJ Waller, they still have their quarterback and the leader of their offense in Matt Jones who returns.
Matt Jones is their signal caller and the leader of the offensive attack that in 2022 put up 28.6 points per game. This season, the average points per game is 15.5, a decrease by a decent amount from a season ago.
Matt Jones last week had a rushing touchdown and a passing touchdown in their loss to Canfield. Jones is an impact player and someone that the Raiders will need to "spy" and watch at all times on Friday night. The offense begins and ends with his effort and abilities, slowing him down will help make the offense one dimensional and give the Harding defense more opportunities to force turnovers.
Chaney's Bryson Douglas ran for 131-yards versus Marlington on 25 carries. He is a speedy and shifty running back who can make defenders miss with his jukes and hard runs. With the Raiders' defense struggling to stop the run over the last two weeks, Chaney will most likely try to give Douglas around 25 carries like he had versus Marlington.
From a formation and passing standpoint, expect a lot of Trips formations along with Jones rolling out to his left or right toward the trips side. The concepts they run vary but they enjoy the flood concept. They have multiple variations of the flood concept and it is an easy completion to the receiver since multiple Chaney athletes are "flooding" one area of defense.
Lastly, look for different motions from the Cowboys. They enjoy motioning their receivers but also sliding their H back from one side to the other, giving them an extra body to run behind toward that side. These are different concepts that can help keep the Raiders' defense on its heels and make Chaney's offense more successful.
Defensively, Chaney implements a 4-2 defensive front and runs a good amount of cover 4. They utilize their studs on the defensive line to apply pressure and they do not want to get beat deep, hence the cover 4 defensive approach on the backend with the secondary.
Chaney returns six defensive players from a season ago. Elijah Carter anchors the defensive line and is physical and explosive. He will certainly look to disrupt the Raiders' offensive line that has struggled in recent weeks. At the linebacker position, Chaney returns both of their inside linebackers in Clifton Scott and Jawuan Harmon. Harmon is their running back as well and is an all around athletic individual who makes plays on both sides of the ball.
In the secondary, Bryson Douglas, Dwayne Thompson, Jordan Hewlett along with Matt Jones at times are impactful in the secondary. While they run cover 4 a decent amount of times, they tend to start in cover 1 and want their athletes matched up in man-to-man with your athletes. One of the biggest improvements that the Raiders need to make is getting separation with their wide receivers. The Cowboys may just play man-to-man the entire game on Friday and apply even more pressure knowing that the Raiders' offense has struggled picking up blitzes and executing as a whole.
One thing is for certain, this week the Raiders have an outstanding opportunity to get in the win column for the first time since week 2. This only occurs if the players execute on the football field and do their assignments. While you may say that is an obvious statement, it is even more imperative due to the 1-4 record that the Raiders have currently and how important these next five games are for the black and gold.
Chaney is 2-2 and is a physical, well-coached football team. Coach Antram will have his players ready and the Raiders need to fix their defensive struggles that occurred these last two weeks.
Warren G. Harding needs to return back to their defense making plays and keeping them in games, the offense should follow suit shortly after. Ultimately, the Raiders are looking to snap a 3-game losing streak and build momentum heading into the second half of the season.
At a Glance:
Warren Harding Raiders
Head Coach: Steven Arnold
Record: 65-57 (1-4 - 2023)
Years as HC: 12
Record Last Year: 2-8
League: All-American Conference
Defense: 3-4, Multiple
Aug. 18 - Canton McKinley - Loss - 14-33
Aug. 26 - at Akron Buchtel - Win - 20-16
Sept. 1 - Farrell - Loss - 17-24
Sept. 8 - at St. Vincent St. Mary - Loss - 28-42
Sept. 15 - at Ursuline - Loss - 20-56
Sept. 22 - Chaney
Sept. 29 - Boardman
Oct. 6 - at Cardinal Mooney
Oct. 13 - at Massillon
Oct. 20 - Austintown Fitch
Head Coach: Seth Antram
Record: 12-4 (Includes 2-2 in '23)
Years as HC: 2
Record Last Year: 10-2 (1-1 in OHSAA Playoffs)
Defense: Multiple - 4-2
Aug. 18 - at East - Loss - 13-14
Sept. 1 - Boardman - Win - 21-13
Sept. 8 - at Marlington - Win - 14-6
Sept. 15 - at Canfield - Loss - 14-35
Sept. 22 - at Warren G. Harding
Sept. 29 - Cardinal Mooney
Oct. 6 - Howland
Oct. 13 - at Ursuline
Oct. 20 - at Youngstown East
The Raiders will face the Chaney Cowboys at Mollenkopf Stadium on Friday, September 22nd at 7:00 p.m.
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