The most familiar opponent possible will greet the Ridgway Christian Eagles on Friday for the Arkansas Association of Christian Schools state championship.
Southwest Christian Academy will take on Ridgway for the state’s 8-man football title at 7 p.m. at the Arkansas School for the Deaf in Little Rock.
The Lions and Eagles met in last year’s championship game with SCA coming out on top 36-6 in Ridgway’s first year with a football program. The two teams have also met two times already this season with Ridgway dominating both contests to the tune of 48-8 and 86-14 wins.
“We’ve certainly seen each other enough,” Ridgway coach Trent Young said. “This will be the third time we’ve met this season, so there will definitely be no secrets.
“I was really surprised with how the first two games went. They are a lot better than they showed, but we also played really good.”
Young said he has addressed with his team not taking SCA lightly and, so far, the “focus seems to be there.”
In fact, Young said the team, which only lost one senior from last year’s squad, has been focused ever since they came out on the losing end in last season’s championship game.
“(SCA) earned that one for sure,” Young said of last year’s title game. “From there the kids made a commitment to start in the summer.
“It takes a lot of dedication and they were very loyal and showed up.”
Last year, Young and the Eagles got such a late start that the team didn’t get to have a summer weight-lifting program, something they were able to have this past summer.
“We’ve gotten much stronger,” Young said. “We’re still not where we’ll be God willing, in six months to a year, but we’re definitely much stronger.
“So they have been focused ever since (last year’s title game). Because last year (SCA) pushed us around a little bit, and so far this year that hasn’t happened to this point.”
According to Young, for Ridgway to repeat the success they have had so far this year against SCA, the Eagles will need to be fundamentally sound in all phases of the game.
“Our kicking game has been up and down,” the coach said. “It is paramount that our coverage teams do their job.
“Defensively, the key is flying to the football. They’ve got some speed we’re going to have to corral. We need to be gang-tackling and really wrapping up and not just arm-tackling.
“Offensively, we need to be able to maintain our blocks. Our backs have been good at blocking for each other and that needs to continue, but our offensive line needs to block well, too.”
A trio of sophomores leads the Eagles’ offense. Twins Jacob (quarterback) and Cody Andersen (running back) provide a speedy one-two punch, while fullback Jacob Dedman gives Ridgway more of a power-running option.
“Except for our last game against Calvary Christian, both (Andersen twins) have been over 100 yards each in every game,” Young said.
As for Dedman, “He runs hard,” Young said. “He does have some deceiving speed when he gets outside like he did a couple of times last week.
“He doesn’t have the quickness or speed the twins have, he’s more of a north-and-south runner.”
The Eagles don’t throw the ball much, but when they do they have been successful. Young said junior Tanner Taylor and sophomore Ezra Tole have “caught some key passes this year.”
Cody Andersen has also caught several passes out of the backfield and even threw a 65-yard touchdown pass to his brother on a trick play in last week’s 48-0 win over Calvary.
Despite the two regular season blowout wins over SCA, Young expects a tough game on Friday.
“We’re looking forward to the challenge,” Young said. “… It’s hard to beat a team twice, let alone three times. Plus they’ve got hardly anything to lose.
“We’ve got to be prepared.”