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Tigers searching for first win against Burns

La Grande’s non-league schedule is nearly done, and the Tigers are still looking for that elusive first win of the season.

The Tigers get another shot tonight on the road against Burns.

La Grande’s offense will need to find a new gear against the Hilanders. Through the first three games, the Tigers are averaging 11 points per game. Turnovers have been the downfall of the offense this season, with 15 turnovers.

“We’ve got to take care of the ball,” La Grande head coach Kenny Mace said. “Not only are we not putting points on the board, but we’re putting our defense into some tough spots. Plus, they’re on the field a lot longer.”

Even with six turnovers in last week’s loss to Vale,
La Grande had its most productive game on offense. The Tigers had a season-high 299 yards of total offense. 

“We went back on tape and showed the negatives like the turnovers, but we also showed the team what they’re doing well,” Mace said. “As a staff we know they’re close, but we just need to avoid those letdowns. Those letdowns are what’s killing us.”

The other area of focus this week was getting points on the board. Several times during the 48-13 loss to the Vikings, La Grande was in position to get points on the board but couldn’t convert.

“We’ve got a good kicker,” Mace said. “Our goal is seven points every time, but if we can’t get into the end zone, we need to get something. It just comes down to making better decisions on the field. We need to be more physical on offense, too. If a pass isn’t right where it needs to be, we can’t just sit there and watch it. Our receivers worked on attacking the ball while it’s in the air. If the pass is going to be intercepted, we need to take the pass interference call rather than lose possession. We’re young, but we need to learn quickly.

Despite the 0-3 start to the season, Mace said that the morale in the locker room is still very good.

“They’re ready to get back out on the field,” Mace said. “This week was one of the best weeks we’ve had at practice all season. 

“As coaches we tried to take a different approach this week. We didn’t get on them as much for mistakes. We still corrected them, but went back to more of a instructional way. The kids liked it, and hopefully it pays off on the field.”

Defensively, despite allowing a lot of points, La Grande has been good in one department — takeaways. The Tigers have forced 11 turnovers through three games.

“We work on it all the time,” Mace said. “Tackling and stripping the ball are things we do every day in practice. It’s great to be able to get the ball back for the offense. We need to be better about making reads on defense, and it’s tough when the team we’re playing has a short field, but we have to try harder to keep them out of the end zone.”

Burns, a Class 3A school, enters the game with 2-2, coming off a 51-0 win against La Pine. 

The Hilanders lost the season opener to Class 2A Grant Union, 42-16, and fell to Lakeview 28-7. Burns’ other win came over Sisters, 33-14.

Burns averages 35 points per game on offense, and has given up 28 points per game. 

The Hilanders will try to win with a strong running attack led by quarterback Austin Feist and running back Seth Nonnenmacher.

“They’re playing at home, so we know it’s going to be a tough game,” Mace said. “They have a new coaching staff, but they’ve been there before. 

“Every game is going to be tough, but we need to play four quarters. We focused on what we can do as a team this week. If we can’t do that, then it doesn’t matter who we’re playing.”

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