Something must give this week and if the Jefferson Falcons have anything to say about it, it will be the Newton Falls Tigers.
Jefferson and Newton Falls will square off in an All-American Conference National Division clash of 1-4 squads Friday night at Arrowhead Stadium in Newton Falls.
However, while the records of the Falcons (0-2 in the AAC) and the Tigers (0-1 in the AAC) may match, the road they’ve taken to this point is cut in half by a big fork.
While Jefferson, which has dropped three straight, is five points from flipflopping its record to 4-1, coach Jon Culp’s Newton Falls squad has been taking it on the chin... bigtime.
After crushing visiting Rootstown in their opener, 55-7, the Tigers have been whipped in succession by Brookfield (46-6), Norton (35-6), Girard (47-7) and Champion (56-8).
Jefferson dropped a heartbreaking 16-14 homecoming decision to visiting Liberty last week.
Henson, though, saw plenty he liked.
“I think we actually played our best game of the year,” he said. “We had great effort and the guys gave everything they had. We are getting really close, and we are improving every week.”
And in that process, Henson said morale is still stable in Falcon Country, where 18 of the 22 starters from Ashtabula County’s best team in 2012 (8-2) were lost to graduation.
“The players have been great, they come in every day ready to work,” he said. “They are earning the experience we didn’t have at the beginning of the season. They are figuring out the things we need to do to win, and it will pay off for them soon.”
That could happen as quickly as Friday night in the third clash in this series, which Jefferson evened at 1-1 by spoiling Newton Falls’ homecoming last fall, 43-20.
“I think they are a team still trying to find themselves,” Henson said of the Tigers. “On offense, we have seen them run a couple of series in the I, in the pistol, shotgun one-back, shotgun empty. We have to be prepared for them to come out in anything.
“The two guys on offense who make them go are their quarterback, Brandon Fuller (6-foot-2, 175-pound senior). He throws pretty well, but is an even better runner. He scrambles around and makes plays, plus they have designed runs for him. He caused
us problems last year.
“His main target is Derek Walton (5-10, 190 senior). He is a versatile player who will line up in the slot, in the backfield and tight end. He does a good job of getting open when Fuller is scrambling around.”
But wait, there’s more.
“Their tailback is Larry Zarlengo (5-7, 160 senior), he is a pretty hard runner,” Henson said. “On defense, they are a base 4-3 team that blitzes from all over. Their D-line is big and tough to move. Walton is the Mike LB and is probably their best defensive player. Zarlengo is a safety and likes to fill hard on the run.”
The Ashtabula County Hall of Famer knows what need to be done this week for the Falcons to get back on track.
“We need to do the little things better... we are obviously close, a couple of small things can make a big difference,” Henson said. “We must win the turnover battle. We improved last week and need to continue to get better.
“And we must contain the quarterback. We can’t let him run all over.”
Despite the early struggles, Henson said his Falcons are not about to give an inch.
“I believe we are gaining the experience that we didn’t have at the beginning of the year,” he said. “The kids are playing extremely hard and improving every week. We are really close to becoming a very good football team.
“We are 1-4 and are five points away from being 4-1.”