Greenback coach Greg Ryan isn’t putting much stock into Harriman’s less-than-impressive record ahead of Friday’s Region 2-A matchup between the two squads.
“Just watching Harriman on film, they’re the best-looking 2-6 team I think I’ve ever seen,” Ryan said.
The Cherokees (5-2, 3-0) have won their last five games after downing Coalfield last week to jump into first place in the region. Harriman (2-6, 2-2), on the other hand, has struggled for most of the season.
Ryan said that’s not the result of a lack of talent.
“In my opinion, their biggest issue is they don’t have an identity,” Ryan said. “It’s kind of a mystery going into Harriman when you see their offense do two different things.”
In the two Harriman games Ryan has watched, the Blue Devils have shifted from a Wing-T formation — designed for running plays — to a shotgun formation with four wide receivers.
Ryan said the Cherokees are preparing for both.
“It’s really nothing we haven’t seen in the past, it’s just the fact you usually don’t see one team running two totally different styles of offense,” Ryan said. “If we can just get lined up and tackle well, we should be OK.”
Greenback defeated Harriman 48-14 last season. The Cherokees finished with 479 yards, including 310 through the air, in that game.
The Blue Devils haven’t beaten Greenback since 2010, and they will be hard pressed to slow down the Cherokees’ offense with quarterback Braden Carnes at the helm. Last week, Carnes threw for 294 yards and six touchdowns in the Cherokees’ 45-20 win over Coalfield, which was in first place in the region prior to that loss. Carnes connected with four wide receivers for touchdowns. His primary target, Holden Willis, was kept relatively quiet until the fourth quarter — a result of double coverage.
Fortunately for Greenback, Duke Stinnett, Blake Fields and Wyatt Rutgerson filled the void, with each catching a touchdown pass.
“When they do that, we’ve got other weapons,” Ryan said. “Holden and Braden probably had the earliest chemistry, but these guys are coming along and they’re getting better every week. That’s giving Braden more confidence to get them the ball as well.”
While Ryan isn’t sure what to expect from Harriman’s offense, he said he knows it boasts some talented athletes. That includes its quarterback, Bradley Frost, who Ryan said has the ability to both run and throw the ball. The Blue Devils also have a trio of speedy running backs and a tight end who can make big plays.
Last week, Harriman edged Midway 21-20 in a region matchup.
Ryan said the Cherokees still have room for improvement, particularly on defense and with penalties. They had 10 penalties that cost them 105 yards against Coalfield.
“As long as they do what they’re coached to do, we can live with it,” Ryan said. “If they do that, we’ve had a lot of success in the past, and we expect that going forward.”