By Chris Parsons / Staff Writer
The Corbin Redhounds have won six of the past 10 season openers under head coach Steve Jewell and hope to add one more to the list this week as the team travels to Somerset to face Southwestern in the Ray Correll Bowl.
Jewell's squad is coming off a 5-6 season last year, the first losing season the Redhounds have experienced under Jewell's tenure as head coach, and are looking to start the 2013 campaign on a positive note.
Standing in the way is a team that has been from one extreme to the other over the past two season.
In 2011, Southwestern posted a 7-3 regular season mark before making a deep playoff run that ended with a loss to Anderson County in the state semifinals. Last year, the Warriors went through a coaching change after the departure of long-time coach Dale Anderson as they limped to a 3-7 record, dropping four straight and missing the playoffs to close out the season.
Whether they struggled or not last season, Jewell said he expects a traditional Southwestern team when the two meet up Friday night and hopes his squad is ready for the challenge.
“Traditionally Southwestern is a pretty physical ball club and they're going to try to spread you out on the field offensively, but hit you with the run,” Jewell said. “They've got a quarterback that runs the ball well and they also have a back that runs it extremely well.
“The tailback (Logan Campisano) is extremely quick and he reminds me a lot of the (Cory) Davenport kid that Bell County had recently,” he added. “So they have a good running attack and they've also got some receivers that can do things after the catch, so they're a complete team offensively right now.”
While the Warriors have their main threat in the backfield returning this season in Campisano (1,202 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2012), Corbin is trying to replace the bulk of its offensive production after the departure of its 1,000-yard rusher in senior Matt Jewell.
Coming out from under center into the backfield is senior Taylor Waddle, while Corey Taylor takes his place at the quarterback position. In addition to Waddle, its a who's-who of talented backs for the Redhounds, including Jake Coppock, Tanner Powers, Brian Nantz and Cai Jackson.
The group as a whole had success moving the football in the Redhounds' scrimmage against Middlesboro last week in a game which Corbin's varsity unit outscored its opponent, 14-0. With that in mind, Jewell will most likely stick to the back-by-committee for now, but he's not about to tip his hand at this point when it comes to talking strategy.
“We're still searching for what we do best offensively,” Jewell said. “I felt like we opened it up a bit and passed the ball well when we did throw it against Middlesboro.
“I thought we had a variety of backs that carried the football very well,” he added. “I think the big thing for us offensively is to get multiple people involved in the offense, that way the defense won't be able to key on just one individual.”
When it comes down to it, Jewell said there's really no secret as far as what his team needs to improve on from a year ago – turnovers. The Redhounds fumbled the ball 27 times, while they were intercepted 15 times. Considering they lost three games by a touchdown and one more by three points, limiting those turnovers could have been the difference in a losing season and a winning season in 2012.
“It comes down to the cliché type things with us,” Jewell said. “We've got to minimize what I call the dumb penalties, which are offsides and things like that, and protect the football.
“We did those things in our scrimmage, so I was pleased in that aspect,” he added. “I feel like if we can continue to build on that, we'll be fine offensively.”