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Playoff preparation: Braves get ready for John Hardin

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By Ryan Naus

Grant County has enjoyed a lot of success on the field this year, but the Braves aren’t satisfied with their achievements during the regular season.

The Braves will look to continue building on their regular season when they travel to play John Hardin in Elizabethtown at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 14.

“Mainly it’s us looking at what they do, what we do and what we feel like we can do best against their defense and what we have to do to stop their offense,” coach Mike Davis said. “They have a very potent offense. I think they amassed 447 yards of offense in their last game. They’ve got some quick running backs and a very good-looking offense group. That’s the reason they’re 9-1. We need to figure out a way to shutdown their offensive power and figure out a way that we can keep the ball on our side and control the clock. That’s what we’ve worked on this week.”

“We’ve been watching a lot of film and studying how they play,” senior Cory Beach said. “A couple of us seniors went to their game at Central Hardin and watched them. It helps to see who we’re going up against and the competition level.”

The Braves will have had two weeks between their last game against Boyd County on Oct. 31 and their playoff game at John Hardin.

“We’ve been fine tuning some things that we do,” senior Rex Benson said. “This week is geared to John Hardin and game planning for them. We need to limit turnovers and penalties and run the ball effectively. We need to convert third downs and keep their offense off the field. It’s a whole new season. We’re 0-0 now. What we did in the regular season, none of that matters now. We’re focused on winning the program’s first playoff game and advancing.”

On offense, the Braves believe they need to control the clock by controlling the ball and keeping the ball away from John Hardin.

“Offense needs to take care of the ball; no turnovers, no penalties, no mistakes. The things we’ve eliminated late in the season. We’ve grown and gotten better at not doing that,” Davis said.

While John Hardin has a potent offense, Davis believes that they haven’t met a team that plays the way the Braves play.

“I don’t know if they’ve met a team that hits as hard as we can. I think we’re very physical on both sides of the ball. We’re going to have to be physical,” Davis said. “Hopefully our defense can continue to create more turnovers. We need to be in the plus side in the turnover column and limit the penalties that we have on both sides of the ball.”

“If we shut down their run, they’re done,” senior Josh Rump said.

“We’re going to have to play 48 minutes of football,” Beach said. “We need to play hardcore defense and tackle well. We need to play with lots of emotion.”

The third phase of the game, special teams, will play a crucial role in the game.

“Special teams will be huge in this game. We need a good leg out of Preston Cahill. Against Boyd County, he was a momentum builder with a field goal before the half. If we get in field goal range, we’re going to kick it. We’ve got confidence in him,” Davis said. “Punting the ball, we need to pin them deep and kick it away from their returners. We have to have something out of our kickoff return team. They kick the ball fairly deep, but the game they did lose there was two key touchdowns. One of them was a kickoff return for a touchdown and the other was a kickoff return that was deep in their territory that led to a touchdown. We need Pelfrey and Mertz to step up big time this week and get us a couple good returns.”

The Braves appreciate the support from the community and hope that with a weekend full of Grant County sporting events, they will have a large showing of fans at John Hardin.

“We had a good contingency come down to Boyd County, which is farther than John Hardin. I really hope our fan contingency is big,” Davis said. “We want our fans there. It’s important to show the community getting behind their teams. Hopefully we can get a big crowd on Friday and then they can go support the cross country teams on Saturday in Lexington.”

The 12 seniors have put in 12 years playing football in youth league, middle school and high school and they’re not ready to call it quits just yet.

“We’ll go as far as us seniors can take us,” Beach said.

“We’re not ready to put our pads up yet,” Rump said. “We’re playing for respect from the state. In almost every game this year, we were picked to lose. We’re not done showing what we can do.”

“Since day one, we’ve been trying to make it to the playoffs with as high a seed as we could get. If we win, we get another shot at Oldham County and I think it’s a game we can win if we play Braves football and execute,” Davis said. “This is a stepping stone that will help us develop a program that will be top notch year in and year out. When the road ends, it’s going to end, but we want to carry on as long as we can.”