by Andrew Garda
The season is young, but it’s been a pretty good one for senior defensive end/offensive tackle Gary Robinson Jr. So far, he’s accrued 11 tackles, six of them solo, three dropping the ball carrier for a loss.
Robinson was a solid player last season, but he’s taking the next step now.
It doesn’t go unnoticed by co-defensive coordinator Jamie Bittner who said part of the reason for Robinson’s success was how hard the senior worked off the field.
“He took over a little more leadership this week in practice with the defense, which is good,” Bittner said after the team’s 35-0 win over Nutley. “He did a real good job studying film, made some good calls and adjustments on the fly. He picked up stuff during the walkthrough too, which is nice. I knew he was watching film just by the things he was calling out.”
Robinson said he worked extra hard this week and really focused on his preparation.
“I had to make sure I am mentally and physically prepared,” he said. “Make sure I’m doing pushups every night, watching hours and hours of film, looking at tip sheets every day, because if you prepare for something, and the opportunity comes, it’s all good.“
Like all the Mounties, Robinson is excited to head to Massillon, Ohio, for this Friday’s game. He sees it as a chance to get a taste of what it could be like if he played football in college.
We’re going to be traveling and in hotel rooms and things of that nature, so this is like practice. This is something before the real deal. And you get that at Montclair High School.”
Robinson knows the Tigers will be different than what the Mounties have seen before, but really it’s all the same to him.
“Every team runs a different set of offense and defense, so you have to approach it a little differently,” he said. “But you still have to the same mindset, saying ‘OK I need to know what they’re going to run before they even come out of the huddle.’ What down and distance they’re on, what play they’re on, what patch of the field they’re going to run it on, all of it makes a difference.”
How to Watch and When
Not everyone who follows the Mounties can make the game, but anyone who bleeds blue can watch.
You can do so via the Massillon district website at massillonschools.org/LiveBroadcast.aspx.
It will cost you $5 but given gas prices, that’s a savings of well over $100. Add in your favorite brand of beer or soda, plus your own hot dogs and a Mountie flag and it will be almost like you’re there.
Given that it’s supposed to be raining Friday night in Massillon, you also won’t have to worry about forgetting your umbrella.
Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.
In an interview with the Independent’s Ohio High School Football Blog “Friday Night Ohio,” Mounties head coach John Fiore asked the writer, Chris Easterling, just how good the teams the Tigers had beat already were.
Tigers head coach Nate Moore wondered the same thing about the Mounties’ opponents.
In other words, we can look at the film but it’s hard to get a sense of just how good a team really is in a vacuum.
One thing is for sure — Jamir Thomas is going to be a handful. One of two Tigers with Ohio State offers — wide receiver/defensive back Jayden Ballard is the other — Thomas pops off the game film on offense or defense.
Out of the backfield, Thomas runs with good vision, picking out the running lanes quickly and getting through the hole. When he needs to, he can run with power as well, and the Massillon offensive line helps him out with some solid blocking.
Once in the open field, Thomas isn’t easy to bring down. As the Massillon offense runs the ball 82 percent of the time, that’s job one for the Mounties defense.
So this is where Montclair’s defensive line is going to have to step up. The first two games of the season, the Mounties have struggled against the run, both outside and up the middle. Against Nutley, the defensive interior settled down and established itself, but even late in the game the Raiders were able to move the ball. They have to step up and tighten their gap-discipline, and more than anything, they have to make clean tackles, not arm tackles.
The return of Willie Matthews on defense should help. The unit acquitted itself well in his absence last week, but Matthews is a difference-maker, and having him at the linebacker position is going to be a big boost to the unit.
Add in some pressure on the edge with Gary Robinson Jr. and Shawn Collins or Kyshawn King, and the Mounties have the weapons to lay a hand on Thomas. If the technique holds on their tackling, they have a shot to bring him down before he gets up ahead of speed.
Offensively, the Mounties should do more of what we saw last week, and set Charles Murphy Jr. up for more keepers. Some of that is on Murphy, who needs to be a little more confident in his reads dictating whether he hands the ball off or pulls. He’s so athletic that, if he makes the right decision, he should be able to give even the stout Massillon defense fits.
As for the air attack, over the last two weeks the plays have been there for the taking. In the game against Nutley, Murphy and his receivers looked like they were almost in sync, but there still seemed to be work to do. If they can knock out the last few kinks, the passing offense will be a handful.