Sacred Heart’s magical football season continues after the Crusaders made quick work out of Salem for a 34-6 win last week.
Quarterback Andrew Grubbs accounted for three touchdowns while running back Nick Pipkins ran for two touchdowns and rushed for over 100 yards, a feat he has reached in every game this season.
“We played really well on defense,” Sacred Heart coach Ed Smith said. “We played our best game on defense. We forced some turnovers.
“We made some mental mistakes offensively in the first quarter. We were scoring because the defense was giving us the ball in really good situations. Then we made a few big plays, but we had several mental mistakes for some reason. We settled down after a quarter or so and started to move the ball better. By far, it was probably our most complete game.”
Yet Sacred Heart’s celebration of reaching 4-0 will have to be short-lived as the Crusaders face undefeated Clarkdale. The Bulldogs (4-0) have dominated teams on both sides of the ball, with its offense posting 43 points per game and its defense allowing just 10.5 points per game.
“They will be by far the best team we have played so far,” Smith said. “It’s not even close. They are a really good football team.
“They are experienced and have 40-something kids on the team. We are going to their place. We don’t have time to be patting ourselves on the back because we have a tall task this week.”
Despite being a Wing-T offense, quarterback Cal Culpepper makes teams have to respect the passing game. This season, Culpepper has thrown for 148 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions while rushing for 185 yards and four touchdowns.
“He throws the ball well,” Smith said. “He can also take it the distance on you and score from a long way out. They run basically a Wing-T, but they run it out of the shotgun. Unlike most Wing-T teams, where you don’t have to worry much about the throwing game, you still have to worry about everything with them. You have to respect the vertical pass down the field, and you have to play the slants outside. Then they also have a lot of counter stuff inside. Defensively, we will go from playing our best of the year to our biggest challenge. We’ll have to have really good eye discipline.”
The Bulldogs have several efficient running backs, with Mason Horne leading the team with 476 yards and five touchdowns. Another option is Drake Shirley, who has run for 438 yards and four touchdowns in 63 carries. Rounding out the group is Lance Rawson, who has posted 369 yards in 33 carries.
“They have deceiving speed when you look at them on film,” Smith said. “They have great quickness. They can move the ball north and south. They don’t spend a lot of time running side to side. They see a gap and hit it. We’ll have to tackle well and be in position.”
According to Smith, Clarkdale’s defense brings heavy pressure, which will force Sacred Heart to bring a balanced offense.
“They are really good up front and have two really good defensive ends,” Smith said. “They look like really strong kids. They will pressure you and press the line. They don’t mind playing man coverage. We can’t just have one phase of the game working. We will have to run it and throw it. We have a lot of work to do.
“It’s the next game. It’s the task at hand. It just so happens to be the toughest challenge so far this year.”