BY MAKENNA ALLEN
It’s a happy homecoming for Tiger Football fans as the team returns from Edmond, Ok. with a winning record for the first time this season. The Tigers now stand 3-2 after defeating the University of Central Oklahoma 35-7 last Saturday. It is with mounting confidence that the team prepares to face their next opponent: the Emporia State University Hornets.
This weekend’s game at Lewis Field Stadium comes with all of the traditional homecoming festivities. The fun and games are of no concern for Tiger football players, however. Every game is about stepping up and playing hard for the victory. There’s no room to spare if the Tigers plan to head to the playoffs this season.
Though the Homecoming 2019 game is just another step in the direction of that goal, head coach, Chris Brown, suggests that the matchup against the Hornets will not be an easy one.
Emporia currently sits 2-3 for the season. However, Brown feels that the record is not necessarily a reflection of the team’s play.
“They’re a good football team,” Brown said. “They could be sitting here easily at 4-1.”
Unfortunately for the Hornets, last week’s 34-23 loss to Northwest Missouri State pushed the team farther from that record. Despite the ultimate loss, Emporia put up a fight against the 5-0 Northwest. In fact, the Hornets took an early lead over the Bearcats. Though they were not able to hang on to that lead, Emporia managed to hold their opponent to 18-points and 200-yards below their season averages.
This success is perhaps a testament to the strength of the Hornets defense. Indeed, this portion of the team holds the majority of the returners for the 2019 season. They also play a form of coverage that is Brown’s primary concern.
“I think that’s probably what they rely on most, is their defense,” Brown said. “I think they’re banking on their defense keeping them in the game and hopefully their offense can make some plays and get up on you.”
Accordingly, quarterback, Chance Fuller, and his offense are preparing for something new.
“They do a lot of different stuff that we really haven’t seen before,” Fuller said. “They do a lot of different coverages and move around a lot and they’re always in the right place. They always do their job.”
A strong defense isn’t the only asset for Emporia. Some of the team’s other strengths lie in it’s individual players.
This week, the Tigers must keep an eye on the Hornet’s quarterback, Dalton Cowan. During the game against Northwest Missouri, Cowan passed for 156-yards. Though this figure is far less than Fuller’s 310-yards and five touchdown passes against UCO, Cowan proved his mobility as he rushed 13 times for 24-yards.
For Brown, this ability is something that the defense needs to note.
“We just need to get to him and make sure we secure the tackle, take a great angle,” Brown said. “To me, it’s the same thing we did last week. Don’t let them get out, keep them in the pocket, keep them contained and make them throw under pressure. If we can do that, stress them a little bit, I think our secondary can have a good day.”
Cowan isn’t the only integral piece of the Hornet’s offense. The team also looks to wide receivers, Cole Schumacher and Will Amos, to put points on the board. Last week, Schumacher had five receptions and a touchdown while Amos had five catches and 40-yards of his own.
Overall, Brown recognizes that the key to the game this weekend will be the patience of his Tiger players.
“They don’t give up the big play,” Brown said. “They’re going to make you earn everything. It’s just our guys being patient and understanding that we’re going to have to earn everything that we get this week.”
Where to Watch:
It may be difficult for Tiger fans to maintain their own patience amid the atmosphere of Homecoming 2019. However, it is this excitement that Fuller believes helps to drive the team.
“It’s awesome just walking out and seeing all of the people and they’re so loud,” Fuller said. “It’s a lot of fun and it definitely helps us.”
So come out to Lewis Field Stadium to help build the Tiger confidence while having some fun at homecoming. Tailgating begins at 5:00 p.m. and kickoff is set for 7:00 p.m..