The St. James football team has had a tough slate to open the season, but they'll look to get into the win column when they host Hermann for their first Four Rivers game of the season on Friday night.
St. James head coach Josh Rodriguez has had a chance to look at the tape from last week's loss to Perryville last week and while there were some positives to take away, the biggest thing he noticed is that the Tigers need to improve their pass catching.
"I think we played well in several other areas, I think our defense played well for most of the night. Our biggest issue is dropping the ball," said coach Rodriguez. "You look at our quarterback stat lines and it looks like we don't complete anything, but when you have 10 drops of catchable balls, we're going to struggle. That's our biggest issue.
"We kind of knew we were dropping, I didn't know it was that many," continued the Tiger head coach. "We need to get that corrected or we're going to really struggle, even with the turnovers."
With drops playing such a big role, that is St. James' biggest emphasis in practice this week.
"Just a lot of reps. We have to continue working in practice, catching the ball, throwing the ball and having confidence in ourselves," said coach Rodriguez. "That's really all this is. The kids are capable, they just need that confidence that they can get it done."
Much like the Tigers have faced in the first two weeks, Hermann runs an option offense. The Tigers have found some success against that scheme so far this season. The Bearcats are a physical squad, so St. James will have to focus on the point of attack on both sides of the ball.
"They're very physical on both sides of the ball. Their line gets after it. On defense, they bring their linebackers almost every play and they're going to put a lot of pressure on us with their stacked defense. We're going to have to be able to pick up blitzes," said coach Rodriguez. "Offensively, they're very skilled in the option game. They know where to attack and they're very methodical about it. They don't mind 15-18 play drives and we're going to have to limit those drives and take care of the football."
The main wrinkle that Hermann will throw in compared to Salem and Perryville is that they have a few more options in that option offense. That offense is based around running back Trent Gleeson and quarterback Chase McKague. Despite that, St. James' success against two option offenses this season should give them some confidence going into Friday night.
"They're a little bit more multiple than the two previous teams we've played," said coach Rodriguez. "We'll have to be a little bit better in our pass game. I think weather may play a bigger role this week with rain, so that may hamper the passing for both of us a bit. I think they're more skilled in their option game and where to go with it and we'll have to be very disciplined with where we need to be."
With the forecast calling for storms all day Friday, both teams might have a heavy focus on the ground game. St. James has found some early season success with Tyler Recker on the ground, as he's rushed for over 100 yards in each of the Tigers' games so far.
"I think that (the running game) is something we can lean on. I think that's something we probably need to work on more anyway," said coach Rodriguez. "Weather is always an issue for both teams. If it gets too wet, you have to run the ball and throwing becomes less of an option. Being on turf, it's not going to be as big of an issue, but if it's a torrential downpour, that's going to play an effect into our play-calling."
Coach Rodriguez said the biggest key to victory will be controlling the line of scrimmage.
"I think being able to control the line of scrimmage is going to be the key," said Rodriguez. "I think the team that controls the line of scrimmage with the linemen and the linebackers will win the game. I think it's a very even matchup. Different skill sets, obviously, with what the teams do, but I think overall it's a very even matchup and the team that takes care of the ball better and controls the line of scrimmage will win this game."
This is also the Tigers' first conference game of the season and coach Rodriguez wants to see his team bounce back and set a good tone for conference play.
"Well it's important to get any conference win. The first one right out of the gate is the most important one this week and it's the only one we're worried about," said the St. James head coach. "We're worried about being 1-0 this week and that's all we can control."