Tigers try to get back on track with onset of district play

Thursday, October 23, 2003
Cape Central's Brandon Twiggs, left, and Mikell Abraham are are key players in Centrals running game.

After limping through its last two games, Central's running game looks to kick it into gear tonight when the Tigers host Sikeston at Houck Stadium in the Class 4, District 1 opener for both teams.

The Tigers started the season well, rushing for 146.4 yards per game in going 4-1. But in its last two games, a loss to Jackson and a win over Sumner, Central has rushed for only 51 yards.

"Execution has been a problem more than anything else," Central coach Lawrence Brookins said.

Whether it is injuries, inexperience or just a lack of execution, the Tigers' cast of backs will have to get their game going against Sikeston if Central is going to win its fourth straight district title.

"I believe Sikeston's a very good team and their defense is very good," Central running back Brandon Twiggs said. "We're going to have to go out there and do what we can do. If we have a hole we need to hit it as hard as we can."

Central's top two running backs entering the season, Will Johnson and Twiggs, have both fought injuries and inconsistency. Twiggs had a strong game against North County with season highs in yards (95) and carries (22), but has not been able to put up those type of numbers since.

Twiggs said as the season has gone on he has tried to gain more confidence running the ball.

"Even if you are not getting a lot of carries, the main thing is feeling comfortable with the ball in your hands," he said.

Johnson, who was hurt in the season opener and missed the first four games, has been switched to wide receiver.

The Tigers' most dangerous weapon in the backfield has been quarterback Mitch Craft. Craft has 249 yards rushing to lead the team, but sacks have caused him to rush for a negative one yard the last two games.

Brookins said the Tigers' youth in the backfield, besides Craft, has made a difference.

"Youth is something we have had to deal with," he said.

Along with Craft, the Tigers may also turn to their two bigger backs. Fullback Mikell Abraham and Gabe Edwards provide a bigger, stronger look. Both runners have had long runs this season but neither have gotten more than six carries in a single game.

Abraham said despite the recent struggles the Tigers know they're capable of putting all the pieces together.

"We have been working really hard," he said. "All the coaches want is for us to give 100 percent and play every game like it's our last game."

Sikeston's defense has been tough against the rushing game this season and is led by all-state linebacker Jacob Priday.

Abraham said tonight's game will be a big test for the Tigers.

"Since we won the district last year it should motivate us," he said. "But that doesn't just mean we're going to win the district this year. We just need to play ball and don't underestimate the other teams."

The Tigers will will be without two linemen tonight. T.J. Bishop will be out again with a hand injury and Patrick Slattery will also be out with a concussion. Central's backs are all healthy though.

"This year most of the running backs have gotten hurt," Twiggs said. "So the main thing is having everyone on the field and healthy."

jjoffray@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 171

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