FRANKLIN – Sometimes a team's overall record doesn't tell the full story. If you ask coach Richard Bishop he'll tell you his team is a lot closer to expectations than the record would indicate.
The Westwood Panthers (1-4, 0-1) will travel to Franklin tonight for their second district matchup of the season. Following their opening district loss to Elkhart, the Panthers had a week to reflect and tighten some of the technical issues that plagued them earlier in the year.
“We're a lot closer than people may presume for the outside,” Bishop said. “But at the end of the day, you have to produce. We haven't. We have a great challenge in front of us in Franklin.”
It's simple for Westwood – execute. Coach Bishop has been adamant in his belief that his team can hang with anyone in front of them when they execute. That theory will be tested against a Franklin team who in their first two games toppled 750 yards rushing.
Execution will be a theme of this district battle as the Lions do not hide that they want to run the football. They were held under 200 yards rushing last week against Elkhart but still ran the ball on 71 percent of their offensive plays.
Having “eye discipline” will be the focus of the Panthers defense tonight. Coach Bishop emphasized the Lions' stinginess towards running the ball. Similarly, the Panthers will keep that same belief in their offensive system after a week's rest.
“People have a tendency change if it's not working,” Bishop said. [We're going] to simplify. Simplify to the simplest form until we can execute it and build from that. We're going to do what we do.”
What the bye week did allow the Panthers to do was improve some alignment issues that hurt them against Elkhart. Elkhart's unbalanced formation gave the Panthers trouble on defense in their matchup. And Franklin's ability to “muddle huddle,” which is their ability to line up in a formation as soon as the ball is placed down, and snap get it snapped quickly will give Westwood a small window to adjust.
Coach Bishop will rely on his defensive linemen to keep his linebackers free to make tackles. Coy Elton had over 20 tackles in their previous contest and will need a similar performance to slow the Lions run offense down.
“What are we going to consistently do for four quarters? Bishop said. “We can't revert to 'I use to do it this way.' I think we've improved in that. Some eyes have been opened.”
Westwood's plan tonight is to make Franklin beat them “left-handed.” Coach Bishop is confident in his secondary versus Franklin's receivers, so much of their resources will be devoted towards stopping then run.
The Panthers will try to “steal one” on Franklin's home field and get back even in district.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Franklin.