Photo by Beau Bearden.
KINGMAN – The Kingman Academy football team is all too familiar with Bourgade Catholic.
The Tigers appeared on their way to a win in last year’s season opener, but turnovers proved costly in a 28-27 loss to the Golden Eagles at the NAU Skydome.
“It didn’t work out last year,” Kingman Academy head coach Dan Stroup said. “But we’re going to have to go up there with a good mindset and make sure that doesn’t occur again.”
Stroup took blame for the result, saying it was his decision to throw the ball late in the game. He said the Tigers should have ran the ball and punted for field position.
Nevertheless, Kingman Academy is a more mature team this season with a strong senior class that will be ready for the 2:30 p.m. contest Friday at the NAU Skydome.
“We have a great receiving staff,” Stroup said. “That’s big. That’s different from last year. We were a little bit younger there. They’ve developed and there’s a few guys that we’ve added on. Our quarterback has gotten better. So the idea is to utilize their set of skills at those positions and we feel pretty good going into the game.”
Bourgade Catholic has also gone through some changes from a year ago. The Golden Eagles not only have a first-year coach in Marcel Lopez, but they are also running a new offense and defense.
Stroup has a game plan prepared and said it should be two no huddle teams going at it.
The Tigers should be well-prepared after its three-team scrimmage against Mohave and Needles.
“The areas that we wanted to execute in, we were good in on offense and defense,” Stroup said. “But, it’s always those first-game jitters of everyone getting into it.”
A big advantage for the Academy, however, is the fact that this will be the third straight season playing in the Skydome. While Stroup said the experience is “pretty overwhelming” for newcomers, he felt the veteran Tigers would be ready to go.
“We’re trying to come out of the chute positive,” Stroup said. “We’re always excited to play up there. It’s a great honor to be part of the Fall Classic. It’s an awesome facility for the kids to play in.”
However, the Academy knows it has to take care of the fundamentals in order to find success.
“You have to be a good tackling defense,” Stroup said. “We try to keep missed tackles in single digits. If we do that, we’ll have a pretty good day.
Stroup also mentioned winning the turnover battle and limiting explosive plays as keys to the game. The Tigers plan to eat breakfast as a team Friday morning before making the trip to Flagstaff, where they are determined to take care of business.
“I feel like they’re confident, they know the drill and they won’t look ahead,” Stroup said. “We just try to go 1-0 each week and ignore the noise. … I feel they’re totally dialed in and they’re executing very well.”