ELOY — The Coolidge Bears are coming off a big win last week against their usual rival in Florence.
This week the Bears are in for another high-quality game against their other biggest rival in Santa Cruz Valley.
Coolidge grabbed the 47-43 come-from-behind win last week and Santa Cruz had a blowout 61-0 win against Gilbert San Tan Charter.
Many expected the Dust Devils game to be a preview of a postseason showdown, but the Santa Cruz Valley defense had other thoughts.
The Bears and Dust Devils is a long-standing rivalry that will resume Friday following a two-year hiatus.
During a preseason interview, Santa Cruz coach Rishard Davis told PinalCentral that it’s always the same question when it comes to who their opponents are for the season, “Are we playing Coolidge? Do we get Coolidge?”
“When we were playing Coolidge, it was just one of those weeks where I really didn’t have to say much,” Davis previously told PinalCentral. “There’s just so much history behind the rivalry that you don’t have to say much.”
Against San Tan Charter, the Dust Devils put up 467 total yards on offense and the defense allowed only 79 total yards.
As teams are constantly looking for ways to improve, it’s hard to pick what Santa Cruz needs to work on following their Week 1 performance.
“I expect us to execute a little bit better this week,” Davis said Tuesday. “We got those first-game jitters out of the way, so I’m expecting us to be even more confident in our jobs, but we’re just going to take it one game at a time. We’re not focused on Friday right now, hopefully we can come out today and have a good pretty good practice.”
Davis added along with executing better on offense, the defense can step it up another notch and is not afraid to bring in his backups to keep up the game’s intensity.
“I know that was a great win, but we need to focus on execution and flying to the ball,” he said. “When we have a lead like that, I like to use my bench and that’s another way get the team to continue to play harder because most of the guys that were on the sideline when the game was close they weren’t getting a lot of time. We kind of keep the tempo up by putting in guys that haven’t really had a chance to play all game and the intensity stays there.”
Santa Cruz will face what seems to be an evenly balanced Bears team as running back Greg Rodriguez rushed for 158 yards on 18 carries and had one touchdown last week and quarterback Jacob Gunter threw four touchdowns on 18 of 25 passing for 317 yards.
“We’re just going to continue what we did the other night,” Coolidge coach Rodger Schenks said. “We’re just going to do what’s built into our program and our offensive scheme. We’re not going to try to change much and just be successful with what we do and run it well.”
Schenks added his team just wants to match the Dust Devils’ intensity and be aggressive for the 48 minutes.
With two back-to-back emotional games for the Bears, Schenks said his team can handle the big moments because they’ve prepared for these situations all summer.
“In the offseason we talked about leadership training and mental toughness and things we go through every day just in life,” he said. “The obstacles we’re going to meet or go against and it’s everything we go through in our daily life, I think for us our kids don’t get overwhelmed with the high intensity and the rivalry games because each day we all have struggles and we overcome those obstacles. The big thing is by teaching them life lessons so later on when they’re young men, when they’re husbands and they’re fathers that just playing football games is pretty easy.”
The Bears’ biggest obstacle Friday will be slowing down the Santa Cruz run game, as seven different Dust Devils exploded for 437 rushing yards and combined for seven touchdowns.
Leading the way for Santa Cruz was running back Hunter Ogle who had a team-high 241 yards rushing and three touchdowns.
“I don’t think you can slow it down,” Schenks said of the Dust Devils’ run game. “You just have to be patient with it and play good football. They do what they do, and they do it very well and they have kids that are very good at running the football this year.”