HomeSportsBruins prepare for 'unconventional' looks from Lakeway Christian

Bruins prepare for ‘unconventional’ looks from Lakeway Christian

University School of Jackson football has been close to the Division II state championship in recent years with two runner-up finishes in head coach Michael Stroup’s first five years leading the Bruins and a semifinal finish in 2021.

The Bruins (9-1) finished perfect in II-A West, winning all six of their games by an average score of 54.2-6.3 with three shutouts on the list. Because they did win their region, they got a bye in the first round of the playoffs, which came four weeks after their regular season bye.

“It’s good because it gives us a chance to get healthy,” Stroup said about getting a week without a game. “But I’m not a fan of bye weeks because it gets the kids out of the weekly routine of preparing for a game then playing it on Friday night.”

The Bruins got some time away from the practice field in the early and later parts of the week with practices Tuesday through Thursday that looked like fall camp.

“The good thing about not having a game is we had a few days to focus on us,” Stroup said. “Watch some things on film, see some things we needed to work on and get right then go out and work on that.”

Stroup said the kids responded well and began the week leading up to their playoff opener on Friday against Lakeway Christian (5-6) with good energy and focus as they began preparing for a new opponent from East Tennessee.

Lakeway Christian’s season is one of streaks as the Lions won their first three games, lost their next six then got a region win over Webb School of Bell Buckle 52-45 to make the playoffs and outlasted Clarksville Academy 43-42 in overtime to advance to this week’s game.

“They’re athletic and aggressive,” Stroup said about what he’s seen of Lakeway on film. “They’re a little unconventional in how they line up offensively. They’ve got numerous sets they’ll run plays out of, and they’ll shift some things around to get you misaligned on defense, so our guys will have to pay attention to what they’re doing before the snap every down.”

Stroup gave one example of how the Lions can be unconventional by lining up with five receivers and put them on the same side, forcing the defense to choose between covering all five receivers in man coverage or working hard in a zone while making sure an entire side of the field isn’t left wide open for a back to carry the ball for a big gain before anyone can get to that side.

Stroup said the key for his team is to make sure the defense does its job on each snap and let the offense do what it does throughout the game.

“We’ve got a quarterback who’s thrown for 28 touchdowns and completed nearly 66 percent of his passes, a running back who’s run for 20 touchdowns and more than 1,400 yards and a receiver who’s approaching 1,000 yards on the season – and those are just our leaders,” Stroup said. “Those guys have those stats because they do their job, and the others on the field are doing theirs too.

“Any success we’ve had this year is because we’ve stuck to the plan of doing what we do, and there’s no reason to change that now.”

Those players Stroup referred to were senior quarterback Berkeley Pettigrew, senior running back Kevin Finch and junior receiver Jayce Barksdale. Finch is a semifinalist for Mr. Football.

Stroup said he’s looking forward to a high-energy crowd for what could be the final home game for the Bruins in 2022 unless they were to win Friday and Friendship Christian were to lose its game this week.

Kickoff is at 7 p.m. on Friday. The game will be broadcast on WNWS-FM 101.5 and live-streamed on Worthy Road Studios’ Facebook page.

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