There’s a perception floating around the Louisiana fraction of the MAIS that River Oaks could be vulnerable in 2014.
Mustangs football coach Robert Hannah is used to hearing that kind of sentiment every few years when the River Oaks roster is in flux depth wise — a common problem at almost every private school program in the state.
Hannah’s been here before. But one of the benefits of having 20 years on the job is there aren’t many situations he hasn’t already dealt with. This year is no different for the veteran coach, who through his time at River Oaks has shown a knack for taking what he has and winning with it.
And just like in past years, all that talk of vulnerability is serving as a motivator as River Oaks heads into its season opener on Friday night at Claiborne Academy in Haynesville.
“The kids are excited to show everyone that we’re still here, and we can still play,” Hannah said. “A lot of teams think this is the year to jump on the Mustangs, and we’re out to prove everyone wrong.”
In Week 1 though, River Oaks will have to set about proving its rivals wrong without its starting quarterback.
Senior Brendan Macgregor is being held out against Claiborne as a precautionary measure after sustaining a knee injury last week in the Mustang’s jamboree against Riverdale. Macgregor has 23 starts in his career since taking over under center as a sophomore for his older brother Ryan.
Senior J.P. Pierce will start against the Rebels with junior running back Jacob Griggs coming in as a wildcat quarterback option. Hannah expects Pierce to see plenty of man coverage from Claiborne, who plays a five-man defensive front and loves to bring pressure.
Macgregor’s absence could mean more backfield work for Griggs and senior running backs Drake Porter and Dakota Wingfield.
Claiborne’s primary option on offense is also a senior running back with Tucker Smith, who Hannah said runs the ball “around 75 percent” of the time. The head coach wasn’t thrilled to see some alignment and gap control issues with River Oaks’ defense in the jamboree.
“We made some mistakes, and those are things we’ve worked to correct,” Hannah said. “Hopefully our film study and preparation will pay off for us.”
The Mustangs have a moderate familiarity with this Claiborne team, having lined up against them during spring football and seeing them play their jamboree against Riverfield last Friday.
The River Oaks High School football team hits the practice field on Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014.
River Oaks has enough depth built up at wide receiver and defensive line to rest some key players, but are still counting on a few faces to start both ways.
Seniors Taylor Tindall (WR/DB) and Norquaris Scurfield (OT/DE) and junior Connor Lindstrom (OL/DL) are likely to be on the field for most of the game.
“Coach Hannah always says condition during practice and after practice,” Tindall said. “On both sides of the ball we try and practice as hard as we can. We take pride in being able to play as much as we do.”
Kickoff from Claiborne is scheduled for 7 p.m. and the game can be heard in the Monroe area on KMLB 540-AM.
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MAIS LOCAL SCHEDULE
River Oaks at Claiborne Academy
Rivefield Academy at Central Private
Prairie View Academy at Riverdale
Union Academy at Porter’s Chapel
Briarfield Academy at North Sunflower
Betheny Christian at Franklin Academy
Unity Christian at Tallulah Academy
Northeast Baptist at Tensas Academy
* — all games scheduled for Friday, 7 p.m.