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Hornets, Dragons must play with youth

Youth will be served.

Upperclassmen will be absent as the Coal Grove Hornets visit the Fairland Dragons Friday night in an Ohio Valley Conference game.

Coal Grove (3-4, 0-2 OVC) has just seven seniors and only three juniors. Fairland (1-6, 0-2) has but four seniors and 10 juniors.

The lack of veteran players will create some problems.

"You never know how young kids will react after a couple of losses," Hornets coach Steve Cook said. "Confidence is a big key with young players. But both of us are in a similar situation."

Fairland coach Bryan Ward agreed.

"Any time you have young kids playing, you're going to make mistakes. We just tell our guys if they're going to make mistakes, make it hard," said Ward.

Each team has been racked by injuries. The Hornets lost their top offensive weapon for the season with a shoulder injury to tailback Matt Spears.

Knee injuries have cost Fairland tailback Tristan Clark and three-year starting lineman Zach Taubenheim. Steven Wright has been out with an injury but may play Friday.

"We have to make an adjustment there. He's a three-year starter who's made himself a player. It's kind of heartbreaking. We have to find an emotional leader now, and it's going to have to come from an underclassman now. I'm hoping Chance Adkins can give us some leadership," Ward said.

As another sign of the youth on the field, both teams have freshmen quarterbacks, Ryan Turvey for Coal Grove and Casey Adkins for Fairland. Ward said having young quarterbacks will make for a run-oriented game.

"It ought to be an interesting game," said Ward. "I think the game is definitely going to be on the ground. The team who makes the big play, especially early, could be the team that wins."

Fairland has moved junior Tyler Bowman from quarterback to tailback. He ran for 177 yards and two touchdowns two weeks ago in a 13-12 loss to South Point. Cody Chaffin ran 29 times for 122 yards in the Hornets 20-7 loss to River Valley.

"Bowman has to make the play somewhere. He's our playmaker now. He has to step up and make the play. For them, (Chaffin) runs hard. He's their guy. If he can make the play for them, it'll make the difference," said Ward.

Cook said Chaffin stepped up last week to fill the void caused by Spears' injury, but he knows the Hornets will need a similar performance in order to beat the Dragons.

"Cody did a nice job running last week and our line is doing a good job blocking. We just have to keep getting better and cut down on our mistakes," Cook said.