If there’s one thing Springfield football coach Ryan Serpas is looking for from his team at this point in the season, it’s getting off to a fast start and maintaining it.
The Bulldogs (1-2) host Ben Franklin at 7 p.m. Friday.
“We’ve got nobody to blame but ourselves for situations that we keep putting ourselves in,” Serpas said after the Bulldogs trailed Slaughter Charter 22-0 in the first quarter in a 28-20 loss. “We’ve just got to figure out a way to come out and play smarter football from the get go. That’s something that we’ve been preaching because we’ve been worried about our slow starts. We’re trying to come up with some things for the kids to play a little looser and more inspired to start the game and we’re drawing a blank right now. It’s unfortunate that we keep doing it to ourselves, but we are our own worst enemy right now.”
The Bulldogs moved the ball well on their first drive against Slaughter Charter but lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown, putting Springfield in a bind early.
“Our kids have to do a better job of overcoming adversity,” Serpas said. “It’s a football game, and not everything that’s going to happen in the football game’s going to be positive. We’ve got to shake bad things off and overcome them. Right now, we’re having that problem of letting things go so that we can only control what’s in front of us and ahead of us, not what’s in the past. Right now, it seems like mentally we’re letting the past kind of control us up until a point.
“Hopefully we can figure out what that switch is that we can use to get to where we’re not putting ourselves in these holes and can come out and play a little better football early on,” Serpas said.
Serpas is also looking for improved play from the Bulldog offensive line, especially in the run game.
“Up front last week, they really gave us some fits early on,” Serpas said. “I definitely thought we’d be the aggressor when it comes to line play, and they were able to kind of push us around. We made a lot of mistakes in our blocking scheme wise in terms of who to block and picking up things and doing some stuff, so it kind of forced us to go to a whole lot of passing situations. I think that that’s something that we’ve definitely got to clean up and figure out.
“In my mind, I think that’s still the strength of our team,” Serpas continued. “I still think that up front we should be more dominant. At times, we live up to our potential, but sometimes we just fall flat on our face. We’ve got to get those guys to be more confident in what they’re doing and making sure that they’re not making those mistakes.”
The Bulldogs are also looking for better play in the secondary and on the defensive line, and Serpas said the loss of Rick Vicknair to an ankle injury has also hampered the team.
“Not having Rick hurts us all the way around offensively and defensively,” Serpas said. “He was a kid who we were counting a lot on. He’s a smart kid who’s an athlete who can make plays whether it be on offense at running back/receiver or as a defensive back for us. Obviously, we didn’t have these breakdowns in the first game of the season, and even in the jamboree, when we did fall behind, Rick was able to make an explosive play that got us back into the game in that situation. We’ve been struggling to find somebody to fill his shoes, and right now, there is nobody that we have that can do that. It’s kind of a by committee thing. We’re trying to get a couple of different people to do things to try to fill his role.”
Serpas praised the play of freshman Payton Gibbons against Slaughter Charter.
“We think that his role is going to continue to grow up until hopefully when we get Rick back,” Serpas said. “Maybe that will help take some of the pressure off Rick as well.”
Serpas is also hoping the return of Colin Parsons will give the Bulldogs a boost.
“Hopefully he can work his way back into a starter’s role,” Serpas said. “He did play limited snaps last week, but we think that he’s going to add another dimension to what we’re trying to do as well.”
Britton Allen turned in a big receiving game last week, which Serpas is hoping is the start of an upward trend for the team’s receiving corps.
“This team didn’t really have a clue about Britton, and Ivan (Fletcher) has been the one who has been more successful on film, so they planned, it looked like, to take Ivan away, and Britton definitely was the benefactor of that,” Serpas said. “Ivan didn’t have any catches the other night, but he still had three or four pass interference calls that gave us big time first downs because they were double covering him all night. That’s something that we’re trying to get them to realize, and I know Britton does realize it, that, hey when people are doubling you up, that leaves things open for other people. We’re definitely trying to spread the ball around. If they want to give us those matchups that we feel we can take advantage of, that’s what we want to do.”
Ben Franklin (0-2) is coming off a 50-0 loss to Covenant Christian.
“They’ve got a tall quarterback with a strong arm,” Serpas said. “They do like to throw the ball around. They do have a couple of athletes that they try to get the ball to, so we’ve just got to do a good job of occupying our area. I think if we can get a good rush up front and make the quarterback get rid of the ball quickly, it should play to our advantage. He’s not a very quarterback, so if we can try to contain him in the pocket and make those quick decisions, maybe we can get a couple of interceptions and things can go our way defensively.”
Serpas is expecting to see multiple looks from Benjamin Franklin on defense.
“They’ve played a couple of good offensive teams that have put up some big points,” Serpas said. “It looks like they’re trying to base out of 40 front, but they walk up some of those outside backers at times, so we might see a walked up 4-4 or a 6-2 look depending on what the situation is formation wise. They don’t blitz a whole lot, which we haven’t seen. A lot of teams have just been trying to bring a lot of heat at us, so hopefully them sitting back will allow us to be more successful in executing our blocking scheme and things like that.”
The Bulldogs are also hoping to learn a bit more about themselves as the season progresses.
“Offensively, we’ve got to find our identity still,” Serpas said. “I really think that we should be strong running team and we just haven’t found that identity yet. Hopefully the line comes in ready to work, bet better. I’d like to be in a situation where we can just feed the ball to Jatorius Buggage and allow him to open up plays down the field for Britton and Ivan and not have it the other way around where teams are only worried about Britton, Ivan, and maybe Jatorius slips in a long run here and there …”