Greenback expects tough test from Rockwood
By Gabriel Garcia | (email@example.com)
A thorough look at the Rockwood Tigers reveals that this is a team that will sternly test Greenback’s ability to bounce back from adversity.
When coach Justin Ridge reviewed the District 3-A opponent who will visit the Cherokees (6-1, 2-1 District 3-A) Friday at Cooper Field, he saw the physicality and toughness expected of a squad that gave district leader Grace Christian — who just handed the ’Kees their first loss — all it could handle.
“They’re just a really solid overall football team,” Ridge said of Rockwood (4-3, 1-1), whose record alone does not tell its entire story.
The Class 2A Tigers’ three losses are to 5-1 Sequoyah, 5-2 Kingston and 5-1 Grace. And all of those teams’ losses have come only against squads currently ranked no lower than No. 4 in their respective classifications — namely 5A’s Lenoir City and 3A’s Alcoa and CAK.
Earlier this season, Rockwood hosted Grace, and the Rams were fortunate to come away with a 12-7 win.
Perhaps it is no coincidence that the Tigers’ team makeup is comparable to the team that defeated the then-No. 1 ’Kees 13-6 on Sept. 28 in Knoxville.
“Definitely they gave Grace a lot of trouble, and I think that’s because they run a similar offense,” said Ridge, whose team is ranked No. 4 in Class 1A this week. “The other part of it is that they get after it. They run the football, and they’re real physical up front.”
Rockwood is paced on offense by athletic quarterback Jared Breazeale, who switched from running back to take over that position early this season. Running backs Tyler Skidmore, Kyrou Inman and Drake Long give the Tigers a veritable Four Horsemen-type of attack from their backfield.
“They’ve gotten better since the first game,” Ridge said. “They’ve made some personnel changes, and (Rockwood) coach (John) Webb is always doing a good job of making sure they’re getting better throughout the year, and they have, so it’s gonna be a real test.
“There’s not any of their running backs you can key on because they run it from a three-back set.”
After losing three of their first four, the Tigers have won two straight on the field — plus a forfeit from Taft Youth Center — beating Upperman, 30-24, and district foe Harriman, 41-6.
Greenback does have a few things going its way recently in its series against Rockwood, however. The Cherokees have taken the contest the last two years — winning 17-10 in 2010 and 38-28 last season.
“We’ve had one good defensive struggle with them and won, and we had a shootout with them and won,” Ridge said. “So it’s hard to tell how this game is going to go, based on history.”
And while Rockwood appears stout against the run — a reason the Tigers were able to challenge the Rams — pass defense might be something Greenback can exploit.
“Grace was not able to roll on them as well as they probably like, so I’d say that their run defense is a lot stronger than their pass defense,” Ridge said. “We don’t know what we’re gonna see from them, and hopefully, they don’t just rewrite their whole defense for us, but we had a lot of success running certain things against them last year, so hopefully we can carry them over.”
To do that, quarterback Eric Anderson — who delivered a Tim Tebow-like promise to his team after its loss at Grace — will have to shake off a performance in which he went 3-of-12 passing with two interceptions.
“We’ve got to stay simple and not force anything,” said the senior quarterback. “I think one of those passes that was intercepted I forced it in against Grace.
“Just stay calm and do what I’ve been doing all season, and go from there.”