Live Oak football coach Blane Westmoreland knew part of the challenge this season would be getting a number of younger players up to speed with schematic changes on both sides of the ball.
Now the Eagles are facing another challenge as Westmoreland said injuries will force the team to make some changes in some spots heading into Friday’s game hosting East Ascension at 7 p.m.
“It’s still about growth and getting better,” Westmoreland said. “That’s the biggest thing that we’re in here getting after is just trying to see that growth, get better. We’re going in this week down a couple of starters, so that’s going to thrust a few extra young guys in, but really it’s about trying to get those guys ready. That’s what we focused on – fundamentals, getting to the basics and just trying to build and get these guys ready.”
Live Oak (3-5, 0-3) is at No. 30 in the Division I non-select power rankings on geauxpreps.com, while East Ascension (4-4, 3-0) is at No. 10, and Westmoreland knows things won’t get easier for the Eagles.
“Everybody’s battling for their playoff life or position, seeding, and so it is what it is,” Westmoreland said. “We’re still going to face EA Friday, and we’re going to face St. Amant next week. The thing is, with everything – the injuries and the youngsters, we still have a shot. You win either one of them, we’re in the playoffs, and we can continue this. But it’s just about getting these guys up to speed. We’re having to move a number of guys around to be able to get out there and compete.”
Live Oak is coming off a 33-14 loss to Walker in which the Eagles answered a Wildcat touchdown on the opening drive with a 1-yard keeper for a score from Sawyer Pruitt for a 7-6 lead late in the first quarter.
Walker’s Warren Young Jr. had a pair of touchdown catches, and Kedric Brown had a punt return for a touchdown, helping the Wildcats to a 26-7 lead at halftime.
Each team scored once in the second half – Brown on a fumble recovery and Logan Williams on a 1-yard run for Live Oak in the fourth quarter.
“Defensively, kind of once we were able to settle down and everything, I thought the guys played well,” Westmoreland said. “Offensively, once again, we were able to move the ball. We had some dropped passes that hurt us and things. We saw a couple of guys go out early throughout the game there for us and shook some things up what we wanted to do.
“There were a good bit of teachable moments, but the kids responded well,” Westmoreland continued.
Pruitt went 8-for-18 for 122 yards with Hayden Everett leading the way with three catches for 69 yards, while Cam Christ added three for 52. Williams finished with 39 yards on 11 carries to lead the Eagles on the ground.
East Ascension is coming off a 17-7 win over Denham Springs win which the Spartans scored twice in about two minutes to win the game. Westmoreland also noted the Spartans have wins over West Monroe (16-10 in overtime on the road), St. Amant and Walker with losses to Zachary, Destrehan, Alexandria and De La Salle.
“They’ve played a who’s who schedule this year, and at this point in the season they’re 4-4 and 3-0 in district,” Westmoreland said. “We’re going to have to play our best football. We’re not going to be able to make any mistakes, if any, and we’re going to have to be fundamentally sound – no penalties. We can’t hurt ourselves this week. We’re going to have to put the best foot forward and get after them.”
Westmoreland said he’s been impressed with the size and mobility of the Spartans’ offensive front and running back Walter Samuel, who is committed to Tulane.
“He’s a big, physical runner,” Westmoreland said. “He’s going to run downhill. The thing about him is he can power through tackles, and then he can run around you. He’s complete back … so we’re going to have to be able to key him. We’re going to have to be able to put a hat on him. We’re not going to be able to tackle high by any means.”
“They have some really good receivers who have some speed who can create separation, get space, kind of get down the field and get vertical on us,” Westmoreland continued. “The quarterback can move and scoot, so offensively, they’re going to present a pretty big challenge for our defense.”
Westmoreland said the Spartans’ defensive front and linebacking corps are solid.
“They’re going to twist us on the front,” he said. “We’re going to have to be ready for that. They’re going to bring a little pressure at us. They’re going to play some games with us. They’re going to do some things that we really haven’t seen all year from the front seven, so we’ve been having to work a lot this week in trying to get our guys prepared for that.”
“The kids have been working hard,” Westmoreland continued. “The kids have been getting after it in practice. They know what’s in front of them. They understand what’s in front of them. That’s the thing. They’re still fighting. They understand that goals are still attainable.”