• 82°

Ball control important for Sunshine in opener

NEWBERN – Amid high expectations, Sunshine’s 2008 campaign opened with a 37-16 loss to region foe Holy Spirit, an eventual playoff team. Much has changed over the course of the last 12 months. The Tigers have a new offensive scheme. The Titans have a new coach who is mentoring a young team.

“Holy Spirit is basically what Coach (Jack) Hankins said. They’re rebuilding,” Sunshine High head coach Jonathan Jenkins said. “There’s not a lot of depth, but neither do we have a lot of depth.”

After scouting the Titans in their Jamboree loss against Parrish last Friday, Jenkins emerged confident in the notion that Hankins’ Holy Spirit team will be tough on defense and attempt to run the ball on offense, a far cry from the spread scheme the Titans utilized to score points last season.

“We’ve got to be ready for anything their defense throws at us and get their running game under control. That’s the game plan right there,” Jenkins said. “They have a tailback who is very explosive. So we have to get him under control.”

As daunting as that task may be, the Tiger offense may face an even tougher challenge as it attempts to employ a new scheme successfully enough to topple an aggressive Titan defense.

“They’re better defensively than they are offensively,” Jenkins said. “Offensively, we’ve got to be almost perfect and that’s hardly ever possible on opening night.”

Jenkins realizes that taking care of the football is essential if his team is to pull out of Friday night with a win.

“That was a heartbreaking loss last year,” Jenkins said. “We turned the ball over seven times. You don’t beat Holy Spirit that way.”

In addition to turnovers, the Tigers struggled with the kicking game last season. They will turn to junior Chester Johnson to handle both their place kicking and punting duties this season. If Johnson shows the consistency in games that he has in practice, Jenkins believes his team will be successful at playing the field position game.

“We’ve got to create field position with punts and we’ve got to score with the kicking game,” Jenkins said.

While it is the season opener, the game also marks the first time the Titans have visited Newbern.

“This will be the first time ever that Holy Spirit has come for a football game at Sunshine,” Jenkins said. “They treated us well when we were up there last year. We’ll do the same for them this year. Hopefully we can return the favor on the scoreboard, too.”