CHCS football emphasizes tackling ahead of Appleton City contest

·4 min read

Sep. 23—At the midway point of its first season in existence, the College Heights Christian football team is off to a 1-3 start in 8-man action.

College Heights coach Travis Burk has seen growth from his Cougars since day one of practice. But there's a lot more room for growth as College Heights starts the second half of the season at home on Friday night against Appleton City.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. from Joplin High School's turf field.

"There's been some good and some bad," Burk said. "But our kids are working hard. They are learning. We feel like we are taking some good steps forward. We had a couple of kids that got banged up and that always hurts. But we are working on fundamentals with our defense, how to tackle and be aggressive on defense. That's been the hardest thing to teach these kids, but that's just the nature of the beast. We are learning.

"A lot of great things have come. Our kids are getting stronger. They are learning things. They have become a family. We've got great kids. They work hard. We are just plugging away and trying to get better every week."

Appleton City, which co-ops with Ballard and Montrose, enters Friday night with a 2-2 record. The Bulldogs have victories by scores of 44-20 over Greenfield in Week 1 and a 58-18 triumph over Rich Hill last week.

Appleton City fell to unbeatens Archie 54-16 and Drexel 56-36 in Week 2 and Week 3, respectively.

"Appleton City runs the ball well," Burk said. "They have good athletes. They have a couple of nice sized linemen. They have a linebacker that also plays tight end, who is pretty aggressive and plays well. Defensively, they are sound up front. Offensively, they run the ball well. They try to do several different things. They try to get you off course. They know how to block well. They are a team that's improved from last year. That's got some younger players that are good and older players that provide good leadership."

The Cougars' lone victory came in a 78-40 win over Greenfield in their first home game in Week 3. College Heights fell to North Shelby 72-56 in Week 1, Orrick 82-30 in Week 2 and Liberal 54-38 last Friday.

Against Liberal, the Cougars got off to a strong start with a 38-24 lead with 3:06 to play in the second quarter. But the Bulldogs responded with a quick score to trim the deficit to six before halftime.

Liberal carried over that momentum in the final two quarters. The Bulldogs posted 22 unanswered points and pitched a second-half shutout to earn the win.

"We got banged up. It definitely hurt us in the second half," Burk said.

"We went into halftime worn out. We looked tired. I was definitely concerned. We came out in the second half and we were up six and that got some momentum going. We drove the ball. We did some good things. But we had a pick here and a few things went wrong here and there. We fought through it, but we didn't have the legs we usually do throughout the game.

"Like I told the kids, you will lose those legs when you miss three or four tackles. You fought all the way down the field 20 to 30 yards and did that three or four times in a drive. That hurts. We have to be better tacklers on defense, which will definitely help our offense."

On a positive note, quarterback Logan Decker had another big game for College Heights. He finished with five touchdowns — three through the air and two on the ground.

The sophomore's up to 25 TDs on the season for the Cougars. Seventeen of those are passing scores and eight are via rush. Entering last week, Decker averaged 255 passing yards per game and 130 rushing yards per game.

But the biggest emphasis in College Heights' practices this week was undoubtedly tackling.

"We have worked on tackling from day one," Burk said. "We just keep going over it all the way from the bare minimum basics. This week, we worked on getting our hands on people as far as blocking and doing a better job at that. We're getting better at it.

"It's pursuing the ball and getting everybody around there at the right angles. I think that's definitely one thing we'll improve on this week and the other would be running our offense more sound. This week, I think we've tuned up a lot of things that will help us in that area."