- Last Updated on 12:22 PM 04/23/12
- BY Joe Chandler
It’s been two days shy of a month since the Halifax County High School varsity football team has played in the friendly confines of Tuck Dillard Stadium.
Comets players and coaches are hoping a return to their home field and a large crowd of enthusiastic fans will be a soothing tonic as the Comets face Franklin County here tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the annual Homecoming game.
“It’s been a month since we’ve had a home game,” pointed out Comets head coach Stan Hodgin.
“We’ve had an open date and two road games and I think our guys are most excited just to have the opportunity to play at home again.”
The combination of being able to play at home again coupled with all the enthusiasm and festivities that surround Homecoming will make a tonight an exciting one for the Comets players.
“Homecoming and all of the festivities surrounding Homecoming has heightened the enthusiasm and intensity,” Hodgin said.
“This is a district game and it’s against a Franklin County team that we have had close games with over the past four years. I think the character of this team and what they thrive on is the opportunity to compete. Friday will give us another opportunity to do that.”
The Comets (1-6 overall, 0-1 Western Valley District) enter tonight’s game with an opportunity to stay in the hunt for the Western Valley District title with a victory. Tonight’s game also represents an opportunity for the Comets to snap a two-game losing streak.
Franklin County High School (6-1 overall, 2-0 district,) will be looking for a win that will help its chances to win the district title and gain a berth in the Group AAA Division 6 Northwest Region playoffs.
The match-up tonight will be Franklin County High School’s physical size against Halifax County High School’s speed and quickness.
“We’re going to try to take an athletic approach and attempt to beat them with speed,” Hodgin said.
“I think we match up with them relatively well from a size standpoint. They will be bigger than we are in certain match-ups. I think the quality that is in our favor in this game is our speed and quickness.”
Franklin County is a run-oriented team that has a potent tailback in Tae Gilbert, a 5-9, 170-pound senior. Hodgin pointed out that will his team will have to pay attention to containing Gilbert, Franklin County High School has a number of good players surrounding Gilbert.
“Franklin County is a very tailback-oriented team, but it also runs the fullback trap pretty well and throws the ball a little bit on the edges,” noted Hodgin.
“They’re versatile enough that you can’t concentrate all of your energy on one particular player.”
Franklin County High School has been successful this season in utilizing its ground game to eat up huge chunks of clock time, even when the Eagles fail to score.
That aspect, Hodgin says, is one of the big things that concern him about the Eagles.
“Against every opponent, they’ve had very long extended time-consuming drives,” Hodgin pointed out.
“What that does is shorten the game and limits your offensive opportunities. We’ve been averaging about 12 and a half offensive possessions a game. If Franklin County is able to do what it has done against almost every other opponent it has played this season, we’re probably looking at only seven to eight offensive possessions for the game.”
With that in mind, every offensive possession that the Comets get tonight will need to be a good one.
“We’ve got to be very careful with the football, not make careless mistakes and try to maximize every possession,” Hodgin said.
“It doesn’t mean that we have to have points every possession, but we have to have quality drives and at least move the chains several times. If we get into a game with them like Franklin County had with William Fleming with a lot of exchanges of punts, we’ve got to make sure that we don’t lose the field position battle.”
One of the key ways to prevent the Eagles from controlling the clock is with a big defensive effort.
“We’re going to try to put as many people as we can at the point of attack,” Hodgin said.
“There will be an emphasis on getting off of blocks as well as tackling. Quality tackling and getting as many of our defensive guys to the ball as possible is our defensive approach this week.”
The Comets have only two more games remaining on the schedule after tonight’s Homecoming game. Next Friday night the Comets will host William Fleming High School in their final home game of the season on Senior Night.
Halifax County High School will conclude its season on Saturday, Nov. 7 when it travels to Roanoke to face Patrick Henry High School in a game that will start at 2 p.m.