ALBANY – With Albany heading into its game Friday with St. Michael the Archangel in Baton Rouge, Hornets coach Mike Janis said the goal for his team isn’t complicated.
“Get healthy, recover and just be smart,” he said.
Kickoff is 7 p.m. at BREC's Olympia Stadium, and the biggest part of that equation may be recovery after Albany outlasted Independence in a 68-44 shootout to open the season. The first quarter lasted 51 minutes and the first half went 1 hour and 44 minutes in typical south Louisiana heat.
Because of that, Janis said the Hornets revamped their practice schedule this week.
“Practice next week is going to be light, and we’re going to need a lot of recovery time,” Janis said after last Friday’s game. “I told the guys already, yoga on Monday. We’ve got to do a good job this week of taking care of our bodies, making sure we’re ready to go on Friday because we’re going to be sore and beat up.”
Hornets quarterback J.J. Doherty went 8-for-17 for 226 yards passing and had 10 carries for 144 yards, including a 60-yard TD run for Albany’s first touchdown of the game. However, Janis is more focused on the offense getting off to a better start, especially in the passing game, after starting 1-for-6 for 24 yards against Independence.
“I know we went right down the field and scored a touchdown and then were able to do it again, but we started 1-for-6 throwing the football, and that’s got to improve,” he said. “If the run game’s not there this week and we start 1-for-6, that’s likely two punts, so we can’t have that situation."
Janis said he’d like to curb the number of big plays Albany gives up after Independence scored on plays of 79, 26, 53, 32 and 44 yards. The Hornets also gave up 94-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to Jalen Oliver to open the game. The Hornets allowed 423 yards of total offense, and Janis said some of those big scoring plays could be attributed in part to the Hornets’ new uptempo offensive style, which put up 492 yards.
“Part of our offense and tempoing people like that, you tend to experience that a little more because the other offense has a lot more time with the football,” Janis said of the big plays. “I doubt we’re going to win time of possession battles this season in games, so our defense is on the field a lot. I think limiting the number of players we have going both ways helps, but it does tend to lead to some of those more explosive plays just because the offense has more opportunities for it, but that is no excuse for what we gave up on Friday night. That was too many explosive plays too compacted together. Hat’s off to them. Independence did a great job game-planning. A lot of the stuff that they did, we hadn’t seen on film or hadn’t seen in the spring game, so they did a good job preparing for us.
“Me and (Albany defensive coordinator) Coach (David) Knight have talked about things we can do to improve our pursuit to the football and keeping the team from getting those explosive plays,” Janis said.
One of the positives for Albany was a 26-point third quarter in which Rhett Wolfe scored three touchdowns on an 80-yard kickoff return to open the second half and pass receptions of 59 and 61 yards, respectively, from Doherty.
Wolfe also had an interception in the quarter and caught four passes for 165 yards in the game, while the Hornets defense kept the Tigers out of the end zone.
“I challenged everybody,” Janis said. “Coach Knight did a great job adjusting the defense and making sure that we were where we needed to be at. I thought in the second half, to open that third quarter, our offense came out and looked very explosive and the defense did an outstanding job keeping them off the field.
“I never want to run up a score on somebody, but fear of them scoring … that fear kept us going in the third quarter up until the point where we felt comfortable there with a 30-point lead to go ahead and pull the guys out,” Janis said. “I don’t think (Independence’s) Coach (Scott) Shaffett took it that way, either. I think it was the nature of that game. It was high-scoring, and we were both having trouble stopping each other.”
Albany played St. Michael in the jamboree last season, and the Warriors are coming off a 16-7 loss to Episcopal. Janis said one of the challenges for the Hornets will be slowing the Warriors’ triple option offensive scheme.
“It’s going to force us to play assignment football, and we’ve got a lot of young guys on defense,” Janis said. “The learning curve is going to be high, and those guys are going to have to step up and figure this stuff out because they’re going to have a job to do and they’re going to have to commit to doing that job.”
Janis said getting to that point may require more practice time on defense this week.
“Defensively, I think we’ll put a lot of emphasis on where our assignments are,” he said. “We’re probably going to be on the defensive side of the ball more in practice and get more time over there this week just to make sure that we’ve got everything ironed out and we’re ready to go. We can’t allow a repeat of our defensive effort in Week 1 to happen again.”
Janis said the Warriors run a 3-3 stack scheme on defense and forced three interceptions last week.
“If I were calling a defense, it would probably be something that I would put in a little bit,” Janis said. “It’s something that we ran a little bit of last year. They play very sound, assignment football. They have a group of smart kids on (that) side of the football. They’re good defensive backs, in position and they tackle well. It will be quite a challenge to figure out where those holes are on that defense.”
That means Doherty will have to be ready to move, whether it be with his arm or legs.
“We’ve got to make sure that our progressions we worked on this week, he understands where he needs to go with the football – first, second, third – and where he needs to take off if something breaks down,” Janis said.