Richard Stroud

Grove Sun

JAY- After facing a power-oriented Claremore Sequoyah team in their final scrimmage last week, the Jay Bulldogs will face a different kind of challenge in their regular season opener at the Gravette, Ark. Lions.

Jay head coach Shane Holland described the Lions in one word, “Fast.”

The Lions used that speed to their advantage in a 28-8 dismantling of Jay in the 2009 season opener.

“They can fly,” Holland said. “They’re not very big. We’re probably bigger than them, but they are very fast. They’re a tremendous challenge. They beat us last year and they’ve got a lot of those kids back.”

One of the keys to Friday’s contest will be the Bulldogs’ ability to keep quarterback Brandon Edge upright. Edge, who threw for almost 1,600 yards last season, found a lot of success in last week’s scrimmage throwing the ball to wideouts Kyle Shambaugh and Indy Jones.

“If we can pass protect and keep them off our quarterback we think we can give them some problems,” Holland said. “They blitz every down from somewhere, and sometimes from everywhere.”

Defensively the Bulldogs will be faced with a far different type of team than the one they faced last week. Though like the Eagles the Lions run the ball well, Gravette will rely more on its team speed than the power displayed by Claremore Sequoyah.

“They run the ball really well,” Holland said of the Lions. “That’s been our Achilles heel the last two weeks. Gravette will use a bunch of different formations and motions. They don’t run that many plays, but if they can misalign you, you’re in trouble.”

An ongoing challenge for Holland and the Jay coaching staff has been finding replacements for six graduating seniors from last year’s defense.

“We feel like we’re getting better on defense,” Holland said. “It’s starting to come together. We’re starting to do things like we’re taught. We had a long way to go and we’re not there yet but we’re closer than we were. Looking at the film from the last few practices, you can see we’re doing more things right.”

It remains to be seen whether the Bulldogs have gelled together enough to beat a Gravette squad that has won 28 games over the past three years.

“We’d like to play better than we did a year ago,” Holland said. “We were embarrassed. They ought to be a good measuring stick for us.”

The Bulldogs and Lions will kick off at 7:30 tonight in Gravette.