Photo by Beau Bearden.
KINGMAN – The time is now for the Kingman Academy High School football team.
The Tigers open 2A Central Region action tonight at Southside Park against Camp Verde and head coach Dan Stroup knows it’s important to start off on the right foot.
“This is the statement game,” he said. “This is the one that you need to go out and play hard for the complete game – play our best game.
“Every week I challenge them, ‘This will be your best game of the ones you’ve already played.’ Then that ensures we’re moving upward and not taking a step backwards on anything.”
The Academy (1-2) defeated the Cowboys 34-6 last year, but Stroup mentioned it was Jerome Rhoades’ first game as head coach.
Rhoades has more experience under his belt and a talented quarterback to lead the team.
“Payton Sarkesian has a nice arm and all that,” Stroup said. “He gets the ball out quick. We’ve been preparing for him. It’s going to be quick passing and he won’t hold on to the ball very long.”
While the Cowboys (1-2) will no doubt turn to the passing game, Stroup mentioned they run the ball two-thirds of the time.
The Tigers will have to stop more than just one runner, as Camp Verde’s Ryan Loza has rushed for 197 yards and Dominiq Bruno has racked up 153 yards.
Nevertheless, Stroup feels the Academy is ready for the challenge.
“We’re very well prepared with the competition from the three freedom games,” Stroup said. “… We saw different types of defenses – where people wanted to play us man, play us zone and wanted to change it up. All of the things that we faced, especially in our passing game, we’re super prepared and our timing is on point.”
However, the Tigers are aware of the fact they need to hold onto the football.
The team turned it over five times last Friday against Lee Williams and that’s been a focus in practice.
“We’ve talked about ball security all week long,” Stroup said. “… The name of the game is to protect the rock. You have to protect the rock no matter what happens.
“So we’ve worked a lot of drill work and technique work making sure we’re holding onto the ball.”
If the Tigers can protect the rock and find success in the passing game, they shouldn’t have any issues starting region off with a win.
“All these other games, are they important? Yes. They were great,” Stroup said. “But it is what it is. We’re 1-2 right now and we want to be .500 after Friday night – be 1-0 this week.”
On a side note, Nate Carter was taken from last Friday’s game in an ambulance and Stroup said he won’t play this week.
There has yet to be a determination on his status for the rest of the season.
“We’re hoping to get him back – he’s a great player,” Stroup said. “But Nate Perea has been ready and he’s played more than Nate (Carter).”
That’s what we do – we try to get enough guys backing up the receiving crew where we don’t miss a beat.”