Analysis | Friday Night Drive

Newman seeking bounce-back win against Bureau Valley

Newman’s Nolan Britt looks for running room against St. Bede Friday, Sept. 16, 2022.

STERLING – After falling 34-8 to the undefeated St. Bede Bruins in Week 4, the Newman Comets, now 2-2, hit the road in Week 5 in search of a rebound performance.

This week, the Comets travel to Manlius to take on 1-3 Bureau Valley, a Three Rivers Conference opponent led by former Newman assistant coach Mat Pistole. Last year, Newman won the Week 5 matchup, 26-14.

Offensively, the Storm have made some scheme alterations this year, while defensively, its 3-3 stack should be a familiar sight. With a new coach for the Comets and a new-look offense for Bureau Valley, it could be interesting an midseason matchup this week.

“We watched them on film. They kinda got a new offense from last year,” sophomore linebacker/running back Daniel Kelly said. “They run more T formation, whereas last year they ran a lot of spread, which, we’re going to have to adjust to that from last year. But we’ve been adjusting pretty good in practice and we’ve been looking pretty good, just our linebackers flowing to the ball and everyone doing their job, so we should be good for it.”

After playing primarily passing teams like Rockridge and St. Bede through the first four weeks, Newman’s defense will need to adjust its approach for a run-centric offense again, junior quarterback Carter Rude said.

“We just have to be ready for a lot of run this week. Most of the teams we’ve played have been passing teams except for Morrison, so we just have to be ready to switch it back to defense against the run game.”

Newman coach Mike LeMay sees some resemblance between Bureau Valley’s offense and his own, having reviewed the film. From an offensive standpoint, he expects to be well-prepared, given the exposure to similar fronts in weeks past.

“It’s a coach that spent time at Newman in the past, and he does a lot of good things, solid things teaching the fundamentals. They’ve got a big line. They’ve got the ability to run some power football, which we’re kind of used to, being kind of in our DNA, in our blood, so preparing for that,” LeMay said. “Defensively, our kids are used to seeing the 3-3 stack now, so we’ll be ready for that and everything they’re throwing at us.”

The Newman defense stops St. Bede back Callen Hueneburg Friday, Sept. 16, 2022.

If not for a few costly mistakes, last week’s game could have been much closer. Two near-interceptions along the sideline turned into 60-plus-yard scores for St. Bede, and a drive that reached deep into Bruin territory was thwarted at the 6-yard line by a Newman fumble. St. Bede also converted four fourth-down conversions.

LeMay is expecting a cleaner performance this week.

“Last week, we moved the ball a lot more efficiently on offense. It’s the big plays that we gave up on the defensive side of the ball [that killed us],” LeMay said. “So we’ve been trying to reel that back in, getting aligned and not taking so many chances, and making sure we’re sure on stuff. Our focus was not where it needed to be last week, and I think that showed on Friday against St. Bede.

“This week, we were really more focused. We talked about character and effort, and getting aligned correctly, and every play matters, even in practice. Practice like you play, that’s what we’ve focused on, and that’s going to help us get ready to go for Friday.”

Performing better on critical downs and knowing when to take chances defensively are two primary things the Comets hope to correct from last week.

“We’re trying to get some better pass coverage in, and just get the ball moving more,” Rude said. “It’s just shortening up our mistakes and capitalizing on theirs.”

Added Kelly: “Like Carter said, we’ve gotta move the ball more. Offense did a lot better last week, I thought. Defense, gotta fill our gaps and make better tackles, make better decisions and know what we need to do. We gotta make the most of their mistakes. Jump on them when they’re down, get momentum going, and really, just keep on having that momentum. Just keep pushing forward and not getting tired, and have that momentum the entire game.”

The Comets can keep the momentum by winning the line of scrimmage, and LeMay is looking for his starters to show consistency on both sides of the trenches.

“Key for us is the line play. It starts there any game we play. If our offensive line communicates and understands, we make sure we get that push. Defensive line, same thing,” he said. “Make sure we’re watching the ball, make sure we’re setting the line of scrimmage, so we can go ahead and let the guys behind them run, being fast and flying to it. I know over four weeks, we’ve kind of had some inconsistent line play, and we’re trying to build on that.”