How do you practice for the first round of the playoffs against a team that eliminated you the year before?
If you are the Thunder Mountain High School Falcons, aside from the renewed vigor in defense, you schedule a better California team that runs your opponent’s same offense.
“This whole scenario is set up perfectly,” Thunder Mountain coach Bill Byouer said. “Argonaut runs the same offense as Homer.”
In two weeks the Falcons will host the Homer Mariners, a team that pushed them aside in a home playoff loss last season.
Tonight the Falcons will host the Argonaut Mustangs from Jackson, California.
The Mustangs (4-0, with one forfeit) are a school in the same size classification as TMHS and have been a perennial powerhouse for 11 years according to Byouer.
“They have some big kids,” TMHS coach Bill Byouer said. “And they run the Double Wing. They have a big line and big running backs to run that.”
The Homer Mariners will also run the double wing, so Friday’s game will be like a high-octane practice session.
“They are going to be a force to be reckoned with,” Byouer said. “We will have to be on our toes, we will have to be on our game.”
According to Byouer, the size and strength of Argonaut will mean the Falcons will depend on their technique to stop multiple rushing sets.
“We definitely have our work cut out for us,” Byouer said. “This is not a game that means anything, for records, but it is a personal thing in regards to the players filling out an eight game schedule. We can’t sit back and figure we are going to get better with six games. One of the ways we get better for this program is to play better competition. We will be playing hard, we just had a great week of practice.”
The Falcons have been working on blocking and tackling harder and reacting to the Double Wing formation.
“Our kids are going to step up,” Byouer said. “We can’t be passive this week or next week. Next week is one and out, and this week is a builder.”
The Double Wing is known for a big front offensive line pushing forward with the running back waiting to bust through a hole.
Key for the Falcons will be the front line play of seniors Drew Gardner, Matt Schramm, and juniors Ofeina Soakai, Austin Thomas, and sophomore Lorenzo Malacas.
“You have to stay low and you have to battle them,” Byouer said. “Our tackles will have to be huge. We have to secure the outside and keep everything inside so our linebackers can pick them off. Our kids have their work cut out for them.”
Senior Night ceremonies will lead off the game.
The Falcons seniors will be looking to close out their regular season with another win. That cast of football talent includes Maryland lineman transfer Kyle Dille, second year Falcons lineman Drew Gardner, third year lineman Brennan Watson, Monroe Catholic lineman transfer Josh Rauwolf, three year lineman Matt Schramm, first year lineman Justin Cox, third year receiver Dalton Wellard, third year linebacker Chris Mack, three year speedster receiver Joe Ia, four year star running back John Jolly, and four year all-around offensive and defensive athletes Josh and Villi Tupou.
“We have some younger seniors in terms of experience,” Byouer said. “But they have picked it up and are key to our success. Each year we are getting recognized around the state and these kids have been key.”
Senior managers are Keisha Soto-Sanchez and Danaya Caldwell and senior cheerleaders are Nicole Nelson, Anna Scharen, Christiana Parrish, and Ashley McClain.
The senior night ceremonies will begin at 6:30 p.m.