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Heath brings several high-profile players into Ennis matchup

Hawks love to run the ball and stop opposing rushers
There won’t be any shortage of offensive firepower or intense defensive players when the Ennis Lions (11-1) and Rockwall-Heath Hawks (12-0) lock up in Texas Stadium on Friday at noon for their Region II semifinal.
Lion coach Sam Harrell knows the undefeated foe brings a lot to the table, but he feels good about what E-town can do on the big stage.

Heath offense in focus
The Hawks usually operate in the shotgun, often in two-back sets. They aren’t especially fancy with their formations, as the main focus is just getting running back Kendial Lawrence the ball. Heath hasn’t been all that impressive regarding the turnover battle this year and Harrell recognizes anything that potentially slows the high-powered offense down is important.
“Any way you can get a stop against them is huge, whether it’s a punt or a turnover,” he said.
“It seems to be easier to get a turnover to stop Heath than to make them punt. In three downs, [Lawrence] has a hard time not making 10 yards.”
Quarterback Drew Hollingshead (6-4, 200) has a good completion percentage (70), an even better touchdown-interception ratio (10-1) and he’s committed to the University of Houston. While his 1,508 passing yards aren’t anything special, his -147 rushing yards are especially awful.
“Hollingshead does a really good job of what they want him to do,” Harrell said.
“If he’s not handing off to Lawrence, he’ll fake it and then throw the ball downfield to a guy like [Everett] Gilbert. Lawrence probably makes it a lot easier for him, but I think Hollingshead would be a good spread quarterback throwing 35 times a game in an offense like ours.”
Good luck finding a running back with better stats than Kendial Lawrence (5-10, 180). With 266 carries for 2,565 yards and 45 total touchdowns, there’s no other 4A area runner in his area code. Second in area 4A rushing attempts, he’s 545 yards and 18 touchdowns ahead of any other back.
“Every year there’s a running back putting up numbers like Lawrence, but it’s not often we face the top running back in the whole state,” Harrell said.
“He really is a great player because he sees the field very well, but also has speed and strength to go all the way. Lawrence is as good as I’ve seen running the ball, and they can throw it too. It’s just that he and Gilbert deserve to get a lot of carries as well as they run.”
Speaking of Everett Gilbert (5-9, 175), he’s the team’s top receiver (42-603-2) and an explosive rusher (79-815-9) as his average of 10.3 yards indicates.
“Gilbert is a little smaller than Lawrence, but he’s even faster and they are similar players,” Harrell said.
“He’s a running back at times, but also a receiver and is used similar to what we do with Deonte [McDade]. He gets carries out of the two-back sets and blocks for Lawrence, but you can expect him to get several catches and Gilbert can get behind you in a hurry.”
Receiver Matt Bielski (5-8, 160) has had several excellent games (30-458-4), but it’s safe to say Harrell isn’t losing sleep worrying about him.
“Bielski does a good job, but he’s not very high on the food chain,” the coach said.
“He runs well to catch deep balls, but he can also be a possession receiver.”
The offensive line has obviously delivered for Heath this year the way the Hawks have run the ball.
“Their O-line is very solid and consistent,” Harrell said.
“It’s not a giant group; they kind of remind me of our line in that there aren’t any huge guys, but they do a good job of getting on you and staying on you. All Lawrence needs is for them to put a body on a body and let him find the creases.”

Heath’s defensive picture
The Hawk defense normally operates with a four-man front, but it’s the linebacking corps that gets all the attention when it comes to Rockwall-Heath.
“Midway’s linebackers were really good and this is another very strong group,” Harrell said.
“They’re very active, aggressive and athletic.”
The group is spearheaded by middle linebacker Austin Moss (6-2, 210), who has committed to play for Arkansas. In 2007, Moss was the 10-5A Defensive MVP at South Garland (142 tackles, 4 sacks).
“Moss is the heart and soul of their defense,” Harrell said.
“He’s a coach’s son and he’s like a coach on the field. You can tell he’s high intensity and runs to the ball well.”
The outside linebackers are excellent in their own right with Ryan Mosby (6-0, 205) and George Bamfo (5-11, 195).
“[Mosby] is a little bigger than [Bamfo], but they’re both very active and stunt quite a bit,” Harrell said.
“All three of those guys make a lot of tackles, and that’s what catches your eye on video. Their defense does a good job of forcing plays to the middle for those linebackers and not too many people have run well against them. The linemen do a good job of plugging their holes and the linebackers run in behind them coming downhill.”
While the defensive line is overshadowed by Moss and company, Harrell did mention that defensive end David Tanner (6-1, 200) is a good, physical player. The Hawk secondary has struggled at times this season, but Harrell credited the quality play of safety Greg DeLoache (5-8, 160).
Heath usually plays with a big lead, which puts the Hawk defense in a great situation for success.
“Anytime you get ahead, it’s an advantage for the defense,” Harrell said.
“Teams who don’t throw the ball very well are forced to do something that’s not very normal for them; teams that do throw the ball well have to do so with Heath expecting it.”

State of the Lions
Considering the way Ennis dominated Kilgore last week, there was plenty for Harrell to be pleased about. More than anything, the coach was happy with the preparation by his team during the days before the contest.
“You always have a gameplan you present to the players and then practice; they just really carried out the gameplan well against a running back that came in off a huge game,” Harrell said.
Kilgore’s offense was as simple as it gets and Heath definitely brings more to prepare for.
“Heath is much more diverse offensively than Kilgore,” the coach said.
“We just about sold the farm last week on the run, but you can’t do that this week. Hollingshead and his athletic receivers can make plays. Kilgore had some overthrows and drops that we don’t expect to see this week.”
This game has the makings of a shootout, which is a topic Harrell addressed with his defensive coaches.
“We don’t need to go into this game being unrealistic thinking we’re going to hold [Heath] to 14 points,” he said.
“If they make a big play, it’s up to our defense not to get down and to be ready to make a play the next time Heath has the ball. They’re a very good offensive team; I feel like we’re a good team that can score some points with them.”
It’s a proven fact the Heath defense can be thrown on, which isn’t lost on Harrell.
The Hawks did give up 603 passing yards to Richardson Pierce, after all.
“We feel like we can throw it against anyone and Heath definitely is better against the run than the pass, but we’re going to do what we do – passing and running – regardless of opponent,” he said.
“We’re going to have to utilize the whole field and that’s what we like about our offense. It might be easier to throw away from their linebackers, but we don’t want to let Heath dictate our offensive approach.”
There are obviously some different circumstances when playing a game in Texas Stadium, and so Harrell took the team to Irving on Monday to help the players get more comfortable.
“They just need to realize it’s a football field that’s 100 yards long and 160 feet wide,” he said.
“You have to get over the fact that Tony Romo and T.O. were playing there the day before we made the trip.”
Will Pollan seems to have recovered nicely from an injury he sustained against Kilgore and fellow defender Jyavon King will continue to play his way back from a shoulder injury, so the Lions will have all hands on deck against the Hawks.
Harrell expects the two offensive powerhouses to punch and counterpunch, and of course only one fighter will be left standing on Friday.
“It’s like a tennis match; we’ll have to break their serve on offense a few times and try to hold serve when we’re on offense,” he said.
“It will be a long 48 minutes of ball. We just need to finish with one less turnover and one more defensive stop.”

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Posted by on Nov 28 2008. Filed under Sports. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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