BRISTOL - Off to its best start since 2008, the St. Paul football team comes into tonightâ€™s game against Derby confident.
While the Falcons have been successful, the Red Raidersâ€™ struggles as a 0-2 team is the last thing St. Paul is focusing on in a game that has grown into a rivalry for each team.
â€śFrom what I hear itâ€™s been more of a contentious game and getting more competitive each year,â€ť Falcons cornerback John Ivers said.
Derby nose tackle Zaire Flowers is going to present a challenge to the offensive line of St. Paul.
â€ś[Flowers is a] quick nose guard so we gotta be ready for everything they got,â€ť Falcons left guard Eric Langland said.
On offense, Flowers is also a key player at running back. Through the first two games, the Derby playmakers has 102 rushing yards on 20 carries and is a tough guy to bring down. With St. Paulâ€™s strong run defense, itâ€™ll be a matchup to watch.
If the Falcons can continue to stop the run, theyâ€™ll put the ball in the hands of Red Raiders quarterback Chris Oliwa, who has been inconsistent at times this season. He has 329 passing yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions this year.
But for St. Paul to win, it must limit the big plays out of the Derby receivers.
The Red Raiders are a team that thrives off of big plays and have seen success on deep passes in both games with numerous plays going for 20-plus yards.
As such, Derby receivers Jakwan Hale and Nick Picheco will be two weapons for the Falcons secondary to key in on. Both tend to be physical and win battles at the line of scrimmage against cornerbacks.
The Falcons secondary, meanwhile, has struggled against opposing receivers this season. Holy Cross and Watertown were both able to throw the ball against St. Paul. The Falcons pass rush will be important to take the burden off of their secondary.
â€śSome teams have had some success throwing the ball on us,â€ť St. Paul head coach Jude Kelly said. â€śWeâ€™re going to try and pressure the quarterback and try to keep working hard with our defensive back preventing pass completions.â€ť
Offensively, this week will be no different. The Falcons will continue to ride their run game until a team shows that it can be stopped.
â€śWe feel that we can attack anywhere along the line with our running game,â€ť Kelly said.
Derbyâ€™s return game is strong and they returned a kick back for a touchdown against Naugatuck so special teams play must be at its best.
â€śSpecial teams will definitely be big,â€ť Langland said. â€śIâ€™m confident in the coaches and what they drew up in practice and Iâ€™m confident weâ€™ll make the plays on special teams.â€ť
While the respect is there, the Falcons believe that they are capable of beating any team that lines up across from them.
â€śWe know when we play hard that we can beat any team,â€ť St. Paul quarterback Kevin Ashworth said.
Dan Orencole can be reached atÂ 860-973-1811 orÂ firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @OrencoleDan