Sonoraville's Tristan Key

Sonoraville’s Tristan Key (18) runs between the blocks of teammates Trenton Daniel (3) and Wes McCormick during a game earlier this season. (Larry Greeson, For the Calhoun Times)

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This Friday, the Sonoraville Phoenix will look to establish its elusive, run-heavy offensive attack on the road against North Murray and slow down the proficient passing game of the Mountaineers in order to secure a fifth consecutive Class AAA State Playoff berth.

The Phoenix (4-5, 1-3 Region 6-AAA South) are looking to regroup and rebound after a discouraging 41-3 defeat at the hands of the Calhoun Yellow Jackets at The Reeve two weeks ago. Reflecting back on the loss, Sonoraville head coach Denver Pate said he knows his team has to show a higher level of physicality on defense and become more opportunistic on offense when provided good field position.

“We have to be more physical,” Pate said. “They were just more physical than us at the point of attack. We must also capitalize off of turnovers. We did not execute when we were able to work off of a short field.”

Sonoraville is coming off of a bye week, which afforded the team time to recuperate and prepare for the next opponent, which was revealed to be North Murray (6-3, 4-0 Region 6-AAA North) after the Mountaineers defeated LFO 44-15 to secure the No. 1 seed in its subregion last Friday.

According to Pate, the Phoenix utilized the extra practice time to go back to basics in order to be ready for whatever opponent emerged from that group as the top team.

“(We worked on) a lot of fundamentals at every position,” Pate said. “It was good that we did not know who to prepare for so we just worked on improving us so that we can be the best we can be come Friday night.”

Those fundamentals will come in handy against the North Murray, who has played its best football of the season the last couple of weeks. The team has rattled off four consecutive wins after a 40-13 loss to Calhoun back in late September. The Mountaineers boast a high-flying aerial attack led by junior quarterback Preston Poag Jr. In last weeks contest against LFO, Poag Jr. registered 15 completions for 228 and two scores, while tacking on a 53-yard touchdown run. During that four-game winning streak, North Murray has averaged 41 points per game, while permitting just nine points to opponents.

“North Murray is led by their quarterback,” Pate said. “He does a good job of distributing the ball to his playmakers and when things break down he has good enough speed to eat up some yards on the ground. Defensively, they have shown multiple front so we have to be able go through our rules to execute up front.”

The key to a Sonoraville win will most likely be the effectiveness of its smashmouth rushing attack, which is spear-headed by quarterback Patrick Moore and running back Tristan Key. The duo found running room difficult to come by against the Jackets, but when they have the space to operate they are one of the most potent offensive pairs in the region.

The first step in establishing a successful running game is to control the line of scrimmage. Pate acknowledged that winning that battle against the Mountaineers, along with creating turnovers and protecting the football, is crucial to snagging a victory on Friday.

“We have to be more physical than them at the point of attack,” Pate said. “Just as always we cannot afford to turn the ball over and be successful, but in the same sense if they put one on the ground we must capitalize off of it.”