Rebels coach: 'We can't feed the lion'
In their state quarterfinal win over Hunter Huss last week, the Parkwood Rebels didn't turn the football over.
Coach Lynn Coble says his team will need a similar showing to stay in the game tonight, when the Rebels travel to Monroe for the first-ever state semifinal game between two Union County football teams.
Monroe and Parkwood met in the regular season in late October on the same field and the Redhawks cruised to a 46-7 victory.
Parkwood had three turnovers in the loss, and two of them were returned for touchdowns.
"The biggest thing we harped on all week was to take care of the football," Coble said after Wednesday's practice. "Monroe does a really good job of taking advantage of your mistakes. We have to limit our mistakes. We can't feed the lion."
While Monroe (12-2) has been an established powerhouse for most of this millennium, the Rebels just caught fire a month ago.
They've won four straight after once being 4-6.
To keep it going, and advance to the state title game for the first time in the program's 50-year history, Coble believes his team has to keep the score down.
"We know going into this, it has to be a war for us to be in it," Coble said. "We have to meet their physicality and not fall victim to it. I'm very impressed with Monroe on both sides of the ball. They're very good up front. They've always been very athletic but now they have a great line, too."
With such high stakes, tonight's matchup has drawn a lot of attention.
Coble has asked his players to ignore the swirl surrounding the West Regional title game.
"Early in the week we sat the kids down and told them to stay off social media," Coble said. "To get out of there and not to get caught up in all the hype. We've tried to keep our focus on the practice field and on the game."
Coble feels his team, and perhaps his program, has essentially grown up during this playoff run.
"We had a lot of close games early we couldn't close out," Coble said. "We had to learn how to win. We know how to win a ballgame now and the importance of playing each play. We're a better team now than we were six weeks ago and confidence is a big part of it."
He expects the first quarter to go a long way in determining tonight's outcome.
"We've got to come out and play with everything we've got right away," Coble said. "They're going to try to unload on us. There isn't going to be a feeling out period."
The winner will play in the state championship game next Friday in UNC Chapel Hill's Kenan Stadium.