Head coach Matt Middleton has been praising Cedar Creek’s defense since day one in fall camp.
And the Cougars have responded.
Friday night at Cougar Stadium that unit – and the entire Creek team – will face arguably its toughest test to date when the No. 7 ranked (Class 2A) Jonesboro-Hodge Tigers come to town.
Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.
This is a game that wasn’t originally on the schedule for either team but after Creek saw its Week 1 match-up canceled as a result of Hurricane Ida, Middleton got on the phone with Tigers coach Terrance Blankenship and got the game scheduled.
“Once we lost our week one game, both (Coach Blankenship) and I realized we had the same open week in October,” said Middleton. “Neither one of us wanted this bye week so we made the decision to schedule this game.
“Here is the way I look at it. Either way we will get some points. If we play well enough to win, we will get a lot of points. If we don’t win, we still get points. If they go and have great success and go 8 or 9-2, then we still get 10 or 11 points. The kids will tell you. We will play anybody. Our kids love to play.”
Jonesboro-Hodge (5-1) has won five straight games since dropping a 22-20 decision to Winnfield opening weekend and the Tigers possess play-makers on both sides of the football.
Creek’s defense has surrendered just 59 points in five games this season – 33 of those coming in a loss to OCS – and has only given up more than one TD in a game one time. However, Jonesboro-Hodge will challenge the Creek defense Friday.
“Obviously we have a really good defensive coordinator and these kids are going into year No. 3 of his scheme,” said Middleton. “We absolutely fly to the ball. You follow the ball, and we always have a lot of guys around it. We have benefited from the pressure we put on people that has given us a chance to make some explosive plays on defense. I think we are just extremely physical and fly around.
“The biggest thing is to stop their quarterback (Tydre Malone) and all of his explosive plays. He is special. He can make some big time plays throwing it down the field or he can break it and run it. He has great weapons around him. It’s that much more difficult for anyone defensively when you face such a versatile quarterback. He is absolutely surrounded by weapons.”
Middleton praised the play of a number of guys on the defensive side of the football who may be the unsung heroes at time for the Creek.
“Lane Thomas is so solid for us,” he said. “I think he is one of the best cover corners in north Louisiana. We play a bunch of man and put him in some challenging situations. Lawson Lillo our outside backer is one of the smartest players I have ever coached. He makes a lot of plays. Ladd Thompson at the safety position has been phenomenal. Austin Webb has played well. At the defensive ends spots we have two really good D-ends. Bryce Rushing has played well as of late. We are really coming together as a unit. We have a lot of weapons but a lot of unsung heroes too. One thing is they all play together really well.”
Offensively, the Creek is coming off another impressive performance. Caden Middleton set a school record with six passing TDs in a win over Sicily Island while the Cougars rushing attack has been solid all season.
Again, Matt Middleton knows his team is in for a test.
“They are going to play cover zero; man in your face and down in your grill,” said Middleton. “They will load the box and dare you to throw. They have two of the better corners in the state. And their linebacker (Xavier Atkins) makes a ton of plays.
“Our deal is can we get off the jam enough to take some shots. We have to protect the football. We have to sustain some drives. It sounds crazy but we have to be able to run the ball against a loaded box.”
The contest can be heard on 101.9 FM with Kevin Bayles and David Cole providing the call of the action. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.