CARSON CITY — The Carson City-Crystal Eagles football team will be doing something tonight for the first time in 13 years. That’s playing a 10th football game.
A 7-2 regular season qualified the Eagles for the MHSAA football playoffs for the first time since 1999, when they went 9-2 and made it to the Division 6 regional finals (lost to Saint Charles 40-12).
Their opponent tonight is the Evart Wildcats (7-2). It will be a matchup of two evenly matched teams.
“They are very big and very physical,” Eagles coach Jason Gray said. “We feel that we match up well with them. We’ve moved the ball well all year long and played good defense for the most part.
“We feel if we can win, we don’t want to look ahead, but we feel we will have a shot to win a district title,” he added.
Playoff preparation has gone well this week for the Eagles. Gray said his team is excited to have the season continue.
“Our kids had a great week of practice. They are excited they get to play a 10th game, which a lot of other team’s don’t get the privilege to do,” Gray said. “We understand we have a huge challenge in front of us in Evart.”
Not only will the two teams play the same, but the schools have a similar look in terms of uniforms.
“They are like a mix between Sacred Heart and Vestaburg, which means they are very similar to us,” Gray said. “It’s going to be a fun matchup. They have the same helmet we had for years. The kids noticed that and it’s going to be like looking in the mirror, not only from a uniform standpoint, but from what we do offensively and defensively.”
Gray said it will be more important for the Eagles to play well defensively.
“We have to play good on defense. Our defense has been our cornerstone of success this year,” Gray said. “They run a full-T package and like to run the ball. That is our strength, stopping the run. We force a lot of teams out of what they like to do. We just have to play good defense.”
Offensively, it will come down to the offensive line, although Gray said passing will have to be a factor too.
“It will be won on the line of scrimmage. Our linemen have to play physical and play fast, which we have all year,” Gray said. “Eventually, we will have to rely on our passing game. We are not going to be able to pound the rock at people in the playoffs. We will have to have a passing threat. We feel we have that, but just haven’t done it.”
Prior to kickoff, Gray expects his team to have some nerves. After kickoff, it will be just another game.
“I think our kids will be nervous and I think that is normal,” Gray said. “Our approach all week long is this is just another game. We haven’t overhyped it with the kids. We sold it as playing another game and business as usual. Once we start playing and the pads start hitting I think the nerves will get out.”
An Eagles win will match them up with either NorthPointe Christian or Lake City.