Last Friday night, the Ottawa Pirates had their share of opportunities.
During a 15-7 loss to Woodstock, the Pirates were the beneficiary of four turnovers — but failed to score any points off those, despite twice being within the Blue Streaks' 10-yard line (something they did three times in the game, only to come away scoreless each). Ottawa did cough up the pigskin a couple times, though, which included a costly fumble inside the 10 late in the contest.
"We kind of self-destructed. Not trying to take anything away from Woodstock, but I felt like we let it slip away," Pirates coach Chad Gross said, "just do to some self-inflicted mistakes.
"The good thing about football, you're right back at it here this week with another new opponent and a chance to get back on the winning track.
"The kids definitely want to get right back at it."
Ottawa (1-1) makes its Interstate Eight Conference debut Friday night versus Plano at King Field. It'll mark the first time the Pirates and Reapers have met on the gridiron.
Plano — a charter member of the I-8 in 1979 — began its campaign with a 34-7 win over Aurora Central Catholic before a 54-0 loss to Marengo in Week 2.
"Both tapes showed a lot of different things with Plano," Gross said. "Offensively, they're able to do a lot of different stuff. Defensively, they're able to mix up (things). So it's going to present some different challenges that we haven't had up to this point."
"I think we're going to have our hands full with Ottawa," said first-year Reapers head coach Rick Ponx, who brings three decades worth of coaching experience at the collegiate level — including the past five years at the helm of Aurora University — to the sidelines.
Plano will attempt to get its ground game going with "dynamic" junior Tony Licea (122 yards — 17.4 per carry — 2 TDs vs. ACC) and "pounder" Uri Rodriguez. They'll operate behind an O-line anchored by 6-foot-7, 285-pound Alec Sheehy, a small college prospect according to Ponx.
The Pirate "D" has been stifling against the run thus far — pushing the opposition backward into minus-36 yards rushing.
"They're going to spread us out, so they are able to attack us multiple ways," Gross said of Plano's offense. "I think they're more of a spread to run team, but they are able to throw the ball too (the Reapers have aired it out an average of 16 times), so we have to be ready for both.
"We have to be able to take (the run) away first, and then make them one-dimensional. So our goal's going to be stopping the run and making their quarterbacks throw from the pocket."
"They're the first team that we're going to see that really changes a lot (defensively)," Ponx said of Ottawa. "It's going to be a lot for our kids to handle.
"You always need to be able to run the ball; that starts with understanding the blocking schemes up front. We need to make sure that we know exactly what they're trying to do so we can adjust to it and take advantage of it.
"We've got to be able to run the football — not turn the ball over — and try to keep their offense off the field."
The Reapers' defense is allowing 285.5 yards per game (138 rushing, 147.5 passing). Inside linebackers Eddie Hernandez and Omar Nunez will be key to their success. The Pirates are averaging 198 ypg on the ground.
"They are able to do a couple different fronts (defensively)," Gross said.
"I mean, our No. 1 thing after last week is we have to take care of the football. We want to establish the run, but as we move into conference play we're going to probably have to have (QB Brett Galletti) make more and more plays for us."
"As a defensive coordinator, I'm worried about their offense," Ponx said. "They run the ball inside, they run it outside, and their passing game is good. (Galletti has completed 8-of-14 passes for 97 yards and a TD.)
"It's starts with stopping the run; you know, force them to be one-dimensional and then see if our athletes can matchup with their athletes."
The Pirates hope to get moving in the right direction beginning this Friday night.
"I told (the kids)," Gross said, " 'This is a very good opportunity for us to start our new conference with a win.' "
Plano Reapers (1-1, 0-0) at Ottawa Pirates (1-1, 0-0)
Kickoff: 7 p.m. Friday at King Field.
Radio: JACK-FM 95.3.
Last meeting: First meeting.
FND pick: Plano.