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Knights hope to get past Friday's debacle

POSTED: September 3, 2014 10:00 a.m.

If not for the fact that Bethlehem Christian Academy faces perennial state semifinalist and GISA powerhouse John Milledge Academy this Friday night, the hardest challenge awaiting the Knights could be getting past last week’s severely disheartening 77-0 loss.

“We talked about it as soon as the game ended Friday night. There’s nothing we can do about it now. It’s one of those things we have to put behind us and come together, regroup as a family and focus on putting our best foot forward this Friday night,” BCA head football coach Lance Fendley said of his team.

The Knights (0-2) have had to contend with more than bruised egos, too, as the severe weather that swept through Barrow County Monday afternoon forced Fendley and his team to adjust and accept some undesirable situations. First, BCA was forced inside where they had to go over some schematics and light walkthrough work. Then the Knights had to wait until nearly 5 p.m. before they could practice as the dangerous lightning storm and diluvial rains made it dangerous to practice at best. 

They would eventually get 45 minutes of real practice time in, but the lack of practice was just one problem BCA had to deal with.

“It’s been a weird little transition of things, but they’re coming around. We’re still looking for some leadership to stand up and take charge of some things,” Fendley explained. 

With the weather and last Friday night’s game out of the way, the Knights can focus on the challenge awaiting them. Unfortunately, the challenge awaiting them could be more difficult than the one behind them.

John Milledge Academy’s Trojans (2-0) have advanced to the GISA Class-AA semifinals for two consecutive seasons. The 2013 team rattled off 11 straight wins in the middle of the season after losing their opener 13-12 at the Brentwood School. They would then lose in the semifinals to Memorial Day School 52-15 for an 11-2 season with a 5-0 Region 1-AA record. 

In 2012, J.T. Wall and his Trojans started the season with a 12-game winning streak before losing the semifinals 27-24 against the Valwood School. 

Through both winning streaks, the Trojans made it a habit of demolishing their opponents. In 2012, they outscored the opposition 520-87 through the first 12 games. The 2013 team was slightly less prolific, though they still averaged 36.91 points per game and allowed just 6.73 points per game in their 11 wins.

With just two games under their belt in 2014, also in their first season of AAA football, the Trojans have already gotten back to their winning ways with a 26-6 victory at Trinity Christian in Dublin to open the season before beating the Heritage School 56-19 on the road last Friday night. The meeting with Bethlehem Christian will be their home opener in Milledgeville.

“Coach Wall and John Milledge have proven over and over again that…if they’re not the best, they’re one of the best teams in GISA,” Fendley acknowledged. “They are one of the most competitive teams week in and week out, and they will have a serious chance come late November.”

Although the picture seems bleak for Bethlehem going into Milledgeville, Fendley believes that his team has a chance if they do one simple thing better than they did Friday night against Piedmont.

“We’ve just got to play with a little bit better effort,” Fendley acknowledged. “This past Friday night against Piedmont it was almost as if the wind was let out of our sails and things just seemed to steamroll the rest of the night. A lot of that has to do with maturity. We’ve talked several times about this being a young team and them being able to work back into a football game even when the chips seem to be down.”

While Fendley hopes that his athletes can find a way to get back into the game once the lead has gone to someone else, he would obviously prefer that the Knights get an early lead and keep it.

In the first two games this season, BCA has gone three and out on their first offensive drive. That is something that Fendley knows will not work in the long run.

“We’ve got to be able to get out to a better start,” Fendley noted. “We’ve got to eliminate that and put a seven to 10 play drive together on the opening possession just to give ourselves a little bit of breathing room and some time to experiment with play calling.”

While Fendley hoped to pass the ball well against Piedmont with a perceived weakness in the secondary, the Knights this week feel like a more balanced attack will be their best option against the Trojans.

Specifically, Fendley hopes to work around JMA’s six-man box formations and run or pass based on whether they operate out of a 4-2 front or a 3-3 front.

As far as who will command that balanced attack, some injuries and other developments could extend the necessity of a dual-quarterback system. Dakota Parten will now be taking snaps on both offense and defense, so Fendley imagines it is highly likely that backup Ethan Torbett will see even more opportunities to lead the offense.

“Dakota did a much better job in Week Two of making decisions of where to throw the ball, we just weren’t catching them,” Fendley explained. “It all comes down to how fresh he is. I’m not going to put him out there on offense if he comes off of a 10 to 15 play defensive drive. That’s not fair to him and that doesn’t help us out on a production standpoint.

Friday night will be Bethlehem’s final non-region game as they approach the seven-game region schedule, and Fendley admits that JMA’s position at the end of the non-region schedule does influence some elements of the game.

“There are some plays in the playbook that we still haven’t opened up yet that we’re going to try and save for region,” Fendley admitted. “We want to be competitive and you want to win all 10 of your games, but…those seven region games are where it’s going to be truly make or break.”

At the same time, Fendley acknowledged that Bethlehem would need to go out Friday and put up their best effort or else it might impair their confidence heading into the region schedule. 

Plus, John Milledge is one of the best programs in GISA football, and playing the best is every athlete’s dream. 

“We’re looking at it as the standpoint of this is an opportunity unlike any other,” Fendley explained. “This is an opportunity for our kids. This is our opportunity to go out there and see what we’ve got against the best.”

After the Knights face John Milledge Academy Friday night, they will come back and face Dominion Christian on Sep. 12 for their first region game of the season and their first home game since Aug. 22.



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