SHERIDAN — Tongue River High School football is back at home against the Upton-Sundance Patriots this week after suffering a loss on the road last Friday in Lusk. The game against Upton-Sundance is a chance for the Eagles to prove the first two weeks of play is the real team and last week’s loss was a fluke game, head coach Steve Hanson said.
Hanson altered Tongue River’s lineup, substituting in those who have earned a starting position for those who were not completing the job.
Hanson said he believes the Eagles could not have played a worse game against Lusk in the previous week. The team got off the bus slow and did not execute well. Being back at home and not having a bus trip is helpful. The game was used as a learning opportunity and the Eagles look to rebound back at home. Hanson wants to see a more competitive and physical Eagle team this week.
The Eagles face a tough opponent in Upton-Sundance, with the program being a powerhouse in 1A during his tenure, Hanson said. Upton-Sundance is coming off of a big 62-7 win against 2A opponent Wheatland High School.
The Patriots capitalized on early turnovers to build their lead, Hanson said, something the Eagles need to avoid. Early turnovers are something the Eagles have committed themselves and aided in their defeat last week, turning the ball over on the first three offensive possessions.
For Tongue River to get the win they need to take care of the ball and not give a good team like Upton-Sundance any extra opportunities.
The Eagles running backs were challenged by Hanson this week to take better care of the ball and run with more physicality. Through the week Hanson said the players have answered the challenge, having a better week of practice.
Hanson said this will be one of the most balanced teams the Eagles will face this year. The Patriots will line up in multiple formations with a fast and athletic team. The Eagles need to improve on the tackling from last week, especially in the open field. Hanson feels confident in his pass defense, already causing a few turnovers this year. It is the Eagles’ rush defense he wants to see improvement in this week.
Defensively the Patriots have a very simple scheme that allows the team to play fast. The athleticism of the team makes gives them no weakness Hanson said. Tongue River will look to exploit different areas of the Patriots scheme and create big plays themselves.
Hanson said the game has the possibility of turning into a ground and pound game with the weather calling for some wind and rain at kickoff. This adds to turnover concerns for both teams, especially with the center to quarterback exchange.
Fumbles by either team would be fundamental errors and not necessarily due to weather. Both teams have to play in the weather, giving neither team the advantage.
The Eagles are more balanced between the run and pass game this year, Hanson said.
The weather restricting both teams to a run-heavy offense would not hurt Tongue River any and with the offense being based on the run it the passing restrictions should not affect the offense any.
Pending weather delays, the game kicks off at 7 p.m.