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Pirates unscored on - and stressed

Thursday, October 16, 2003

6-0 Galva-Holstein prepares for Southern Cal amid media blitz

Galva-Holstein football coach Brad Knight says his players' ability to focus has been a key to the 2003 season through six games.

But he added, he'll find out the depth and measure of that focus Friday night, when his Pirates travel to Lake City for a matchup with district rival Southern Cal.

"We had the Des Moines Register here Monday and all three Sioux City area TV stations here last Friday for our game with MVAO," Knight said Tuesday night. "And the media blitz is only going to get worse as we get closer to Friday."

The reason for all the hubbub? The 6-0 Pirates are just one of two teams in Iowa that has been unscored upon this season. Thus far, Galva Holstein hasn't given up a point in six games and has scored 220.

"I kind of view (the media attention) as the kiss of death," Knight said. "I guess our kids' focus will get a real test this week. I know the attention is good for the program and our community. But we could go out and give up 40 points to Southern Cal if we don't play the way we've played all season."

Despite those contentions, Knight maintains his players understand what the team's goals are - to make the state playoffs and go as far as they can in them.

"We haven't even talked about out scoreless streak and I don't think it's a big deal to the kids," Knight said. "We have guys this year who have all done their jobs and don't care who gets the credit.

"We've played outstanding assignment football and I think they understand that the only thing that matters is winning games. The rest takes care of itself."

His players back up that notion.

"We just have to stay focused and keep outworking the other teams," said running back/linebacker Tyler Gebers, who has rushed for 806 yards this season on just 67 carries and scored 12 touchdowns.

"Being unscored upon for this long or for the entire season was never a top goal of our team. It's really no big deal. As long as we win, that's all that matters."

Added running back/defensive back Keith Hustedt: "Our team goal, and it's a community goal too, is to make it to the dome. A lot of players in this past in this program have gotten close but never gotten there. We want to do it for those guys and for us, too."

So far, so good, but Galva-Holstein had at least two big tests coming up. That includes Southern Cal Friday night and undefeated Woodbine in a week and a half.

Knight, meanwhile, won't say he's surprised by the success of this year's team, but who could blame him if he was?

The Pirates returned just one starter on offense and three on defense at the beginning of the season off last year's 10-1 team that was beaten by eventual state champs Akron-Westfield in the state quarterfinals.

"We still don't know how good we'll be until the end of the season," the coach said. "What we have is a bunch of kids who take the field every Friday night expecting to win. We didn't return a lot of experienced starters, but we knew we had some outstanding athletes coming back."

Trouble was, many of those athletes and the G-H players coming up through the program weren't as big as some of the Pirate teams in the past.

So Knight adjusted, using a new defensive scheme. He calls it his "multiple defense.

"We use a lot of different formations whereas last year, we used strictly a 5-2 defense," Knight said. "What alignment we use depends a lot on who were playing, what the situation is and whose on the field for us at a given time.

"If there's been one surprise, it's how quickly this group of kids has picked up on it."

According to Gebers, the Pirates scoreless streak nearly never happened. He said in the first game of the season, BC-IG drove to the G-H 1/2-yard line but the Pirates made a goal line stand, stopping BC-IG short on fourth down.

"We have some real strong guys up front. and great linebackers and and a strong secondary," said Hustedt. "The strength up front allows our linebackers and defensive backs to make a lot of tackles."

The Pirates have also been opportunistic and capitalized on what has to be one of the top turnover ratios in Iowa.

The G-H defense has forced 15 fumbles and intercepted seven passes and lost the ball via turnover just three times. That's a plus 19 turnover ratio.

"Three turnovers in six games is outstanding," Knight admitted. "I'm not saying other teams work on it as much, but we teach our kids to hang onto the ball, and on the fundamentals of carrying and handling it correctly.

"And if a player fumbles the ball much, he'll find himself a seat on the bench next to the coach.'

If the defense has been nearly perfect, the Pirate offense has been the definition of efficiency and production.

Galva-Holstein averages 340 rushing yards per game and 50 passing. Hustedt has run for 684 yards on 70 carries and has scored 11 times. Fullback Evan Platt has provided the power in the backfield, running 60 times for 455 yards and adding eight touchdowns.

"We don't really have any one or two players who are big stars, and no one cares who gets the credit as long as they win," Knight said. "What we have is a bunch of kids who believe and trust in each other."

The coach, meanwhile, is concerned a bit about all the media attention, but much more concerned about Southern Cal.

"We beat them 54-0 at our place last year so we know they'll be coming after us," Knight said. "We took a big step last week with a (32-0) win over MVAO, but Southern Cal presents a lot of challenges."

First of all, he said, SC is huge up front, has quick skilled people and, he added, "is physical, tough and athletic at nearly every position. And we know they'll give us their best shot."

Southern Cal isn't a defensive slouch either. It's given up just nine points per game but lost to MVAO 14-7 two weeks ago.

As for the scoreless streak, one almost gets the idea that Knight wouldn't mind watching it go by the boards.

"It's been kind of crazy around here this week," he said. "But we've got a great group of kids who we think work together well and will stay focused. They understand that winning games is the main goal."



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