The pick: Mounties will shine on 'Friday Night Lights'

Aug. 26—East Rutherford at Tuscola

WHEN: Friday, Aug. 26 7:30 p.m.

WHERE: C.E. Weatherby Stadium, Waynesville

RECORD: Tuscola dominated Madison 55-7 in week one; East Rutherford was shut out 54-0 by West Henderson

LAST MEETING: The last time these teams played was 2014, when the Mounties bested the Cavaliers 39-29.

HEAD COACHES: Chris Brookshire coaches the Mountaineers (third season); Phillip Russ guides the Cavaliers (interim; first season)

PLAYERS TO WATCH: For the Mountaineers' offense, senior quarterback Jett Benson will look to take advantage of a Cavaliers team that did not even field a team last year. Behind the Tuscola read-option offense, expect Benson and fellow seniors Dez Rodriguez, Jourdyn Butler and Riley Noland to keep the defense guessing who is getting the ball next. Expect the ball-hungry Mounties' defense to continue its search for turnovers this week after picking up six against Madison in week one. Senior defenders James Propest and Blaine Conard should be fixtures on the stat sheet throughout the ball game.

For the Cavaliers, they'll look to build momentum early after failing to muster any against West Henderson last week. Senior running backs Coleman Tisdale and Ryan Butler should each get a heavy dose of the team's pistol offense. The Cavs are starting a freshman at quarterback, Landon Flynn, and his protection of the football will be important. On defense, East Rutherford runs a 4-2-5 and sophomores defensive ends Zalen Watkins and Liston Spratt will be the bookends that will need to stop the Mounties read-option.

SUMMARY: It's been a while, eight years to be exact, since the Mountaineers and the Cavaliers played a game. The stories of these two teams since then are very different. Tuscola has made the playoffs in six of eight years since, while the Cavaliers went 1-10 in 2019, 0-7 in 2020 and could not even field a team last season due to a lack of participation.

Bu the Cavs are back, and if they have one advantage over Tuscola, there's not a lot of tape on their schemes or their players. So the Mountaineers coaching staff will need to take a deep dive into East Rutherford's game last week against West Henderson, which should make them salivate.

The key to the game is whether the East Rutherford defense can keep the Tuscola offense from continuing its scoring success this week. My40 TV will air the game live on its "Friday Night Lights" program, giving Tuscola even more reason to try and showcase their highly-touted offense. And if their shut out loss to West Henderson is any sign of things to come, its chances don't look good.

If Benson and his stable of backs can start hot, score and keep scoring, I'm not sure there's much of a chance East Rutherford can keep up unless the coaches were keeping their cards close to their chest last week.

Tuscola's defense is also hot off of the Madison game, picking off two passes and recovering four fumbles. They'll bring the heat early and often against an unproven quarterback and hope to do more of the same this week.

A one-score game means the Cavaliers found a way to stifle Tuscola's read-option, and maybe even score a few points themselves. But I doubt it.

Expect Benson and company to start hot, score quickly and put on a show while the cameras are rolling. We may even see the backups by the third quarter again.


Editor's note: A previous version of this story listed Tuscola by 40. This was incorrect. The correct prediction is reflected above.