Ready to reach new heights?

Thursday, September 5, 2013
Berryville's Jake Parks (44) leaps to haul in a pass during summer camps. Parks and the Bobcats open the 2013 seasonFriday night at home against Marshall. (Chan Davis / Carroll County News)

BERRYVILLE -- The anticipation is over. Preparation is complete. It's time to get down to business.

Berryville first-year head football coach Lee Atkins knows he accepted a challenge when he took over the program in May. He was aware there was conflict. He was cognizant of the fact Berryville had won just three games in three years. He was informed of the difficulty of turning around the program, even for a coach known as a "turnaround specialist".

Four months after stepping foot in Carroll County, Atkins has established a new attitude in Berryville. The players believe in the system Atkins brought with him. They believe in Atkins. And they believe in themselves.

But will that translate into wins? Will the Bobcats turn a corner early in the season? Or will the demons of the past surface against Marshall tonight at Bobcat Stadium?

"Our first game will set the tone for the rest of the season," Atkins said. "We can't get ahead of the schedule. We must focus on the task at hand. Marshall will be our first test of the 2013 campaign."

To set a positive tone, Berryville will need to dictate play early in the game, establish momentum and carry that energy throughout the contest. The Cats play a tough non-conference schedule for the first three weeks before plunging into 1-4A outings in Week 4.

"We must use every opportunity we have in the non-conference schedule to prepare for battle in conference," Atkins said. "We must learn from our mistakes and make improvements each week. The boys know the scheme. We've been preparing for this game since spring camp in May. Marshall is young and scrappy. They will give you all they have for four quarters but will lack the depth we have going down the stretch just because of numbers."

To offset the numbers game, Atkins said the Cats will attempt to keep fresh legs on the field. The best way to do that is to grab an early lead and maintain a comfortable advantage for four quarters.

"We will try to keep fresh legs rotating in on both sides of the ball to keep up a quick pace on offense and defense," Atkins said. "Marshall will play both an Eagle 52 and split four defense. They will base out of the I-pro scheme but will also utilize multiple formations to open up the game. Our defense will be prepared to respond to whatever sets they throw at us."

Berryville starting quarterback Austin Carr said the Cats are weary of practice and were ready to make contact with the opposition. That mentality could prove detrimental to Marshall.

"I think it will," Carr said. "I think everybody is excited. The attitude has been great from the start. We are pumped up and ready to go. I think everyone on defense is tired of hitting the scout team. They are ready to see somebody different, some new faces, and hopefully on the ground."

Atkins wants to see the Bobcats at full steam. He also wants to see his players under control.

"The key to this game is for us to play up to our potential," he said. "We need to control the tempo of the game and not turn the ball over. We are ready to play and we need to get through this first taste of combat without any serious injuries. We are healthy at the moment and hope to remain strong for the upcoming non-conference games. Huntsville and Green Forest are on the horizon. But we need to take it one game at a time."

One game at a time starts at 7 p.m. tonight at Ronnie Clark Field. The anticipation has been building for months, not only for coaches and players, but in the community as well.

"I know everyone around town is excited about this year," Carr said. "I think this senior class is a good class to change everything that's been going on the past three years. Hopefully, it will start back the way it used to be."

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