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Tigers head coach Kenny Mace directs the offensive line through drills at practice. (Paul Harder/The Observer)
La Grande ready for Grizzles in home opener in Community Stadium
The culture of La Grande football is changing. Even after a tough loss to open the season, the feeling at practice is one of change.
“We’ve had some tough seasons,” La Grande head coach Kenny Mace said. “It’s taken a toll on the kids in the past. But you can see things are starting to change for the better. The team isn’t going to accept losing.”
La Grande took a step in the right direction against Nyssa in the opener, leading 15-8 after one quarter of play. However, you also have to learn how to deal with a little success before you can have more.
“It’s not like we were given anything in that game,” Mace said. “We earned that lead.
“Then you could see the kids weren’t sure exactly how to go about the rest of the game.”
The Tigers will need to keep the pedal down against Fruitland, Idaho, coming to Community Stadium at 7 p.m
Fruitland is looking to sack its second Greater Oregon League team this season after posting a 35-18 against Ontario last week.
Ontario turned the ball over on three straight possesions in the fourth quarter during the loss.
With La Grande commiting six turnovers last week, two interceptions and four fumbles, Mace said that’s been a focus for the Tigers during practice this week.
“You can’t allow an offense to have that kind of field position,” Mace said. “It makes it hard on the defense.
“I thought are defense played really well last week. People will point to the fact we gave up 41 points, but when the other team only needs 25 to 30 yards to score it’s tough on a defense.”
One question going into the game against Nyssa was would the new up-tempo attack hold up.
The players answered with a resounding yes.
“We weren’t really sure going into the game how we were going to hold up,” offensive lineman Dylan McHargue said. “But once we got into the game and ran some plays, it seemed much easier than when we ran in practice. It felt like we had more time in between the whistle and the ball getting set for the next play.”
The Grizzlies did give up yards against the other Tigers in the GOL.
Ontario picked up 178 yards through the air, with quarterback Mike Hussey slinging the ball to Jason Haueter. He reeled in 12 passes for 166 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
La Grande has the weapons on the outside to recreate what made Ontario successful.
“I don’t think the team realized how much we were going to pass the ball,” Mace said. “When you talk about running an spread attack, people think about the run. But, we’re just trying to create space for our playmakers to get the ball. It doesn’t matter how it gets to them.”
Quarterback Brandon Dall didn’t have a great statistical night, completing 8-of-26 attempts for 95 yards.
But, Mace liked what he saw from his quarterback.
“It’s an adjustment with the offense,” Mace said. “I think Brandon made the right decisions during the game, it was the execution that didn’t always come through. That’s the area we need to work on and we are. There are a few mechanical things we need to get fixed.”
The Tigers are excited to play at home and show fans how the culture is changing.
“We know people in the community are down on the football team right now,” linebacker Brandon Koch said. “We want to show them that we’re trying to change things here. The whole team has worked hard to make that happen. Now we get a chance to show people at home.”