Bragging rights at stake Friday night

By on August 27, 2014

LR20140821_CScrimmage155Opening night for the high school football this season is this Friday, and in the Record Express coverage area, week one offers a perfect match-up with Warwick and Manheim Central taking the field for a back-yard brawl.
The Barons have won the last 17 meetings between the two schools, with Warwick’s last win over Central coming in 1983 by a 14-0 shutout.
Will this be the year that the Warriors get back in the win column against their arch rivals?
What are some of the key factors which could decide the outcome at Manheim’s Elden Rettew Field?
Warwick coach Bob Locker and Manheim Central skipper Mike Williams replied to the following questions from Record Express sports editor Bruce Morgan about the match-up:
Bruce Morgan: What are your expectations for Friday night?
Bob Locker: I try to explain to my kids that we’re going to go there, we’re going to walk out onto a football field in front of thousands of fans. My expectations in terms of atmosphere for the game is that it’s week one, we’re going to Manheim, a place that really appreciates high school football. So I expect the environment to be electric, hopefully. My expectations for my kids are the same as every other year. It’s your first game of the year and with everything that we’ve worked at, there’s an opportunity to show what we can do, how much we’ve grown and what we’re made of.
Mike Williams: It’s always one of those really great high school games, a big rivalry. Both teams play hard and no matter how good each team is, it’s always a close game, right down to the wire. I’m so glad we’ve renewed this rivalry and I just think it makes for a great game for coaches and players and fans. So I expect a real close game.
Bruce Morgan: What concerns you most about Manheim Central?
Bob Locker: (Quarterback Tony) Staffieri. There’s a lot of things. They’re an amazing football program, they do things well year in and year out, so overall, it’s just that they play with an attitude because they’ve been successful for such a long period of time that they have this innate belief that they’re going to be successful year in and year out, game in and game out. Generally, that’s the first thing I expect to see from them. In terms of specific individuals, Staffieri is quite a play-maker. He’s got amazingly quick feet, he moves in and out of the pocket very well, and he’s got a great arm. He’s obviously a weapon that we need to be concerned about. (Justin) Moreno is just a house. Offensively-speaking, he’s a tremendous lead blocker and this year, I see they’re going to give him the ball a little bit more. So he’s certainly a force to be reckoned with. (Chad) Zunich is an excellent linemen. I see they’ve got a new lineman (Bjorn Lindmark), he’s a pretty big boy. They’ve got a couple backs who have good wheels. So they have a lot of weapons offensively.
Bruce Morgan: What concerns you most about Warwick?
Mike Williams: We don’t know too much about them, (only) what we’ve seen from scrimmage tapes and you don’t know how much they showed. The defense looks pretty solid. It’s always hard-hitting and Bob does a good job coaching and again, they stayed pretty basic in the pre-season, so we don’t know what they’re going to throw at us. I think that’s our biggest concern. And we know they’ll play tough. It looks like the weather forecast is going to be pretty hot and humid, and conditioning is always an issue in this first game, so that’s a concern that we have. I think Warwick’s defense is pretty solid and we’re concerned about that. We don’t know much about their offense yet and who their stars will be. But I guess we’ll find out soon.
Bruce Morgan: Who are Warwick’s key players that you need to worry about?
Mike Williams: To be honest with you, we know some of their linemen are tough and we worry about that. But I don’t know statistically if they have a great running back or quarterback (returning). We thought their quarterback (Matt Pennypacker) was good last year and we knew about some of their receivers. But we don’t know really what to expect as far as that’s concerned. They don’t have too many big names back as far the skill kids are concerned, but we do know their linemen are pretty tough.
Bruce Morgan: What are the keys for you to come out on top Friday night?
Bob Locker: We need to go back to being able to run the ball and throw when we want to, not when we have to. That’s going to be key for us. And then defensively, we’ve got to stay in the game. If they do score on us, we have to make it long drives. You can’t give up big plays. We just have to go in with a belief that we can go over there and match up and play well. I give my kids credit. Last year, the second half we got smacked down a little bit, but I don’t have any doubts as to whether or not my kids are going to come out and play tough.
Mike Williams: I think we’ve got to be able to play four quarters … conditioning will be an issue. Just stay mistake-free and hopefully improve. We did improve from week one to week two, so we’ve got to improve week three. That first game is always a mystery. You just don’t know who is going to step up and who isn’t and who makes a mental error because they haven’t practiced it enough, that kind of thing. So I think coaches are all scared about that first game. For us, it’s just trying to play error free.
Bruce Morgan: Even though it’s non-league, how important is it to get the season started on a win?
Bob Locker: You always want to get off to a 1-0 start to get some momentum. We’ve got to go in with that attitude. The first game is kind of an unknown. You’ve had some scrimmages, you’ve worked on some things, but you’re still trying to put some pieces together and figure out exactly who fits where. And now all of a sudden, it’s for real and there’s things involved in a game that don’t happen in scrimmages. So we’ve got to make sure we’re prepared and certainly we want to get the season started with a victory.
Mike Williams: That’s one of our goals every year. That first game is so important to get started on the right track. I look across the state and 50 percent of the teams will be losers on Friday night. We want to be in the top 50 percent, a winner. But that first game is so meaningful. It’s an exciting part of the season. You put all the scrimmages away and now you turn the scoreboard on and everything counts. So it’s nice to get out of the chutes on a good note. It’s very important. Losing that first game is kind of a real downer.


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