Below the surface of the numbers, lop-sided numbers, Mildred’s blowout of Blooming Grove a year ago was rather elementary. At least it was to Lions coach Gary Grubbs.
“They dominated us on both sides of the line,” Grubbs said Tuesday, as his club, 2-1, prepares to open District 6-2A DII for the second year in a row with Mildred.
This time it will be on the road, and while both teams are very different from a year ago, he still sees line play as a key.
“I know we’re not going to win the line of scrimmage every play, but we have to win our share,” Grubbs said.
The tables are only slightly turned from a year ago. Mildred, which went on to play for a state title in 2012, is 2-1, again. The lone loss, again, came to Centerville, this year by three points, a 45-point improvement.
The Lions were 3-0 coming into last year’s game and flying high. This year, Blooming Grove had three first-half turnovers turn into points the other way in an eventual 34-7 loss to Red Oak Life in the opener.
The Lions are still growing.
“We’re young, and we’ve got a number of guys in new positions,” Grubbs said. “We’re getting better each week.”
In last year’s game, a 62-0 Mildred win, the Eagles amassed 638 yards. They ran for 302 yards on 35 carries. Defensively, Mildred held Blooming Grove to four first downs and 99 total yards.
Blooming Grove had the same amount of carries, 35, but for only 85 yards.
“It’s always about establishing the trenches,” said Mildred first-year head coach Billy Dan Chambliess, who was the defensive coordinator in this game a year ago. “If we can get the line of scrimmage, we feed off of that.”
Mildred has two starters back on the offensive line from a year ago, senior three-year starter Jasper Marshall at center, and junior Keanu Fathal, the Golden Circle Offensive Newcomer of the Year. Perception states the Eagles are not as explosive as a year ago. From a rushing standpoint, the numbers say that isn’t exactly true.
Through three games last year, Mildred rushed for 667 yards and 10 touchdowns, averaging 7.5 yards per carry. Through three games this year, it’s 692 yards and nine touchdowns, and an 8-yard per carry average.
Draylon Sterling has 345 yards and seven touchdowns on 39 carries.
“We’ve got to keep Draylon from going crazy,” Grubbs said. Sterling ran for 153 yards on 11 carries in last year’s game, scoring twice.
Blooming Grove, meanwhile, has the No. 1 rushing offense and rushing defense in the Golden Circle this year. Travis Whiteside (25-256, 3 TDs), Tyler Morris (31-212, 3) and Tyler Ellis (24-205, 2) all rank in the Top 15 in the area in rushing.
The Lions need to control the tempo of the game, Grubbs said. And last year, four of Mildred’s nine touchdowns came from 40 yards or more.
“We can’t give up the big play,” Grubbs said. “Week one (against Life), that plagued us. Since then, we haven’t done that.”
This year, the rivalry talk seems to have taken a back seat to just getting out of the district gates in good shape. Still, it’s a big game.
“I’m not one to motivate the kids to get up (for a game),” Chambliess said, “but if you can’t get motivated to play this week, you’ve got problems.”
Blooming Grove at Mildred
7:30 p.m. Friday
At Asby Field
RECORDS: Blooming Grove is 2-1, 0-0 in District 6-2A DII. Mildred is 2-1, 0-0.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: RB/LB Travis Whiteside, QB Tyler Morris, L Jose Camarillo, L Dustin Raxter. Mildred: RB/S Draylon Sterling, L Nic Stone, K/WR/LB Devin O’Sullivan, LB Dakota Callahan.
UPDATE: Last year’s meeting was expected to be a dog fight, but Mildred won 62-0, and led 35-0 at the half despite losing three first half fumbles … dating back to 1934, the series is tied, 21-21, but the Eagles have won eight in a row … the two teams’ four wins have come against teams with a combined record of 0-16 … the Lions have the No. 1 overall offense (448.3 ypg.) and No. 2 defense (215.3) in the Golden Circle. Mildred ranks fourth (364.7) and third (220.3), respectively ... Whiteside averages 10.2 yards per carry (25-256, 3 TDs) and leads the Lions in receiving (6-77) ... Mildred QB Will Burnham is the top passer in the area with 400 yards and 4 TDs on 21 of 38 passing. He has yet to throw an INT ... Sterling has 438 yards from scrimmage, and 9 offensive TDs ... Callahan leads the Eagles with 29 tackles.
— Raymond Linex II