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Antelope, San Luis clash on the gridiron
San Luis coach Mark Shields calls it the biggest game in the school's history.
Antelope coach Dan Gardner said it's a game with added importance.
It's a lot of hype surrounding the game one coach involved in it a year ago called the “Oh-fer Bowl.”
The Sidewinders head to Wellton tonight to face Antelope, hoping to end a 37-game losing streak that includes two losses to the Rams, one of which happened last year during Gardner's one year as a San Luis assistant — a 46-38 Rams' win.
“It doesn't matter if we're playing San Luis or Yuma Catholic, the state champions. We're going to prepare the exact same way,” Gardner said. “We don't care about the win-loss record. We don't care about what happened last year. You have to treat each game the same. We go in expecting to play well. We go into every game expecting to win and expecting to work hard. We know every game is going to be a fight, no game is going to be easy. That's pretty much what we talk to the guys about every time.”
It's also Gardner's first game replacing 29-year Antelope head coach John Blabe, who coined the term for the game last year because he said he felt neither team would win again — although that prediction proved wrong, as the Rams beat Eloy-Santa Cruz 21-20.
“I try not to think about it, whether I'm replacing a legend or whatever,” Gardner said. “He was here a long time, obviously. I try not to think about it too much. We're going to be completely different coaches, different ideas. I'm just trying to implement the things I'm doing and buy into what we're trying to do.”
For Shields, he already has a game under his belt in his new gig as Sidewinders' head coach, a 45-0 loss at Yuma High.
“This, make no mistake, is the most important game this high school has ever played,” Shields said. “Because this is going to let us know where we really are. I feel we are more evenly matched with Antelope than anyone else. This is it. This is the time these guys really have to step up. ... This is it. This is it right here.”
Shields said he is going to try to simplify things further from last week's loss at Doan Field, although he expects more from his team's wrinkle on the Wildcat, the WildSnake. It produced the team's biggest gain of the night, a 25-yard run by Jorge Sanchez.
“We're going back to the basics,” Shields said. “We let ourselves get pulled in too many directions. We're not going to do that this time. We're keeping it basic like we planned at the beginning of the year. That's what we're going to stay with. We're probably going to do the WildSnake again. We'll probably have a few fun things, but our core is going to be really basic.”
For the Rams, Beto Castro takes over under center while Fred Pearson returns to anchor a three-back backfield.
Gardner said he's looking forward to hosting the Sidewinders.
“It makes it a little more exciting because I know the players, I know the kids,” Gardner said. “I get to see some familiar faces of people I had good relationships with.”
Shields said it was the team's best chance for a win this year, but didn't said that doesn't mean it will be easy.
“I think it's our best chance, but by no way or means am I saying we are going to win,” Shields said. “We're not taking these guys light at all. We're approaching this like any other team. I'm having to remind these kids we have never beaten Antelope. Antelope can come at you with 12 guys and still win the game. These guys are tough, they're scrappy and I have jitters. I'm already not sleeping good because of this game.”
Gardner said his team is ready as well.
“We started back in June preparing for this very moment,” Gardner said. “I expect them to come out and execute and build on the momentum we're gaining.”