The Victory Life Academy Warriors are shooting for their first 2-0 start in just their third season, while the Brookesmith Mustangs are seeking their initial victory under first-year head coach Jeremy Black in the Bulletin’s Six-Man Game of the Week.
Victory Life hammered the Evant Elks, 63-14, last week at Brookesmith’s Dillingham Field, while the Mustangs ventured to Rising Star and came up on the short end of a 92-42 decision to the Wildcats.
“I was impressed by the overall confidence that our players had in themselves,” said second-year VLA head coach Joe Branham. “At this same time last year we would have looked like a deer in headlights. They are showing some maturity and experience now.”
Black felt the Mustangs played well in the opening half, but Rising Star pulled away in the second half and enforced the 45-point mercy rule.
“The first half, aside from a few mistakes, I was pretty satisfied,” Black said. “The game was a lot closer than what the score ended up being. After halftime, they just wore us out. Once we got tired we started making a lot more mistakes and it got away from us real quick. Overall, I was happy with how hard they played, we just have to eliminate the mistakes.”
The Warriors’ offensive output featured 286 total yards, including 181 yards on the ground. Cameron Polaski picked up most of the Warriors’ rushing yards, while the Tyler McDaniel to Frankie Valencia connection resulted in the majority of the Warriors’ passing yardage. Polaski and Weston Norway both scored for Victory Life.
“Offensively, I was most pleased with our passing game,” Branham said. “It was one of our preseason goals to balance our offense and I believe we certainly made a step in the right direction last Friday. We are still a young team so blocking and execution are always a work in progress.”
Defensively, VLA limited Evant to two first downs, 80 yards of total offense and the Warriors recovered four onside kicks.
“We’re a young and green team that needs to quit arm tackling,” Branham said. “One of the greatest challenges with this bunch is to coach aggression into these boys who are good Christian kids.”
Brookesmith’s offensive charge was led by Cameron Hughes, who rushed for 135 yards and three touchdowns. Hayden Fenton led the Mustangs air attack, and the duo is considered the biggest play makers by Branham.
“Our defense must contain Hughes and Fenton,” Branham said.
Despite a 42-point opening performance, Black believes the Mustang offense can improve significantly.
“Our offense is coming along, but we’ve still got a lot of work to do,” Black said. “We picked up a few delay of games because we were having to explain a couple of the routes, so obviously we need to get more reps in and fine tune some things.”
The defensive side of the ball, however, is where Black wants to see the most improvement from the Mustangs.
“We gave up entirely too many points last week, I don’t think we stopped them once,” Black said. “A lot of that we might have been able to avoid if we had taken care of our assignments. We were lining up in the wrong spots and taking bad angles, and when that happens it’s real easy for the other team to score.”
Branham expects the Mustangs to be a daunting challenge for VLA, as Brookesmith handed the Warriors a 60-12 loss in Week 1 last season.
“I anticipate Brookesmith will be a tougher opponent than Evant because they are seasoned six-man football players,” Branham said. “Mentally our kids need to know that one good game like last week doesn’t guarantee a win this week. They beat us soundly last year and I hope that our kids won’t be intimidated by that.”