WATSON – Regardless of the outcome a week ago, and the piercing pain brought on by defeat, Live Oak coach Brett Beard arrived at a distinct realization.
The Eagles (4-2 overall) were still in better position than at any time through six weeks during Beard’s four-year tenure.
“I have to remind myself we are 4-2,” Beard said. “At this time last year, we’re 2-4. We beat ourselves up over it because we’ve dropped a couple and almost let one or two get away from us. You’ve got to harness the positive and feed off that.”
That means emphasizing a strong second-half performance where Live Oak battled from a 20-0 halftime deficit to pull within two points of Central, which added an insurance touchdown in the fourth quarter for a 30-21 District 4-5A win over the Eagles.
Figuring out a method in which his team can put together a complete, four-quarter effort was of paramount importance for Beard this week when Live Oak visits Scotlandville (3-3) Friday in a league battle of 1-2 teams at 7 p.m.
“We’ve got to keep working, keep pressing, continue to grow these kids and continue to hone in on being better at their job,” Beard said. “That starts with me and all the way down. We have to find the right combination of mindset and physicality, to go with the schemes and the jobs we’re asking the kids to do. When it comes together it will come together at the right time.”
Fullback Hagen Long said it was important to move past the disappointment of an opportunity lost against Central and focus on the task at hand.
“There’s always going to be bumps in the road,” said Long, who rushed for 123 yards with a TD last week. “The good thing is we’re still 4-2. We still have so much to play for this year. We’ve got to figure out how to play four quarters, how to start and end fast. That’s what we’ve been working on.”
Live Oak thought it found the formula to a fast start two weeks ago, scoring for the first time in the first quarter and establishing a 20-0 lead and 23-7 halftime edge against Denham Springs.
However, the Yellow Jackets rallied in the second half and led 27-23 in the fourth quarter when the Eagles successfully executed a gadget play in the last four minutes for a 31-27 victory.
Central, which is tied for the league lead with Zachary, made sure there wasn’t any carryover from Live Oak’s stirring win, short circuiting the Eagles with a 20-point first half.
Long helped ignite his team’s second-half comeback, scoring on 50-yard run in the third quarter. That stretch also included TD runs of 62 and 36 yards, respectively, from M.J. Hughes of 62 yards and Sal Palermo, but the Wildcats recovered an onside kick, picked up three first downs and scored on a 21-yard run.
“Consistency of play is critical with this group,” Beard said. “We like the explosiveness and like to put together great drives and do great things defensively, but realistically we need to be 48 minutes of consistent football.”
Long said, “We picked it up in the second half. You’ve got to do that for four quarters. You can’t play one or two. It has to be all four.”
The timing of trying to remedy such a dilemma will come against a Scotlandville program that’s been difficult at best to solve for Live Oak.
The Eagles, which haven’t defeated the Hornets since 2009 (19-14), have narrowed the gap in recent years, trailing 20-14 in last year’s game before dropping a 33-21 decision.
The year before, when Scotlandville reached the Division I state championship game, Live Oak was extremely competitive in a 28-24 setback.
“We’ve let them off the hook the last two years,” Long said. “It’s to make you mad. We’ve just got to go out and execute. If everybody executes then we can go a long way. If we do it right, then we can win a state championship here. I want that for these seniors and the rest of my teammates.”