The Davenport Division champion Sharon High football team looks to whistle into the playoffs on a high note and reverse history as they face traditional Thanksgiving foe Oliver Ames on Thursday.
The 8-2 Eagles, who clinched the division title on Nov. 10 with a victory over Foxboro, travel to Easton’s Muscato Stadium turf for the 10 am tilt looking to defeat the rival Tigers for the first time since 2003.
“I expect it will be a crazy atmosphere,” said senior captain Jalen Epps. “We played them the past three years; each of the years, we’ve lost. But this year, hopefully, things will change for the better.”
Senior offensive lineman Jared Fixler also used the term “crazy” to describe Thursday’s game. “They’re going to want to beat us,” he said.
While Sharon does not need to defeat Oliver Ames to qualify for the playoffs, and the Tigers are eliminated from playoff contention, Epps says that both sides will enter hungry for a victory.
“From a sense of pride, it’s very important. We haven’t beaten them [in nine years]. This year, I want things to change for the better,” Epps said.
“They’re on the schedule, so it’s an important game,” said Head Coach Dave Morse. “You always want to beat someone in your division. It’s just as important as all the other division games.”
Fixler says that the Eagles are ready for a motivated Oliver Ames squad. “They’re not in the playoffs, and they want to come out and try to ruin our season,” he said.
Morse said, “I think it’s about as important as you get [from the Tigers’ perspective].”
Of the contest, the coach said, “I think it will be fast-paced. They’re a high-tempo team. They have a lot of energy on both sides of the ball. I think it will be a very intense game.”
Morse says that Oliver Ames’ 0-3 Davenport mark this season does not accurately reflect their capabilities. “I think they’re a very good team. I think their record does not indicate what their potential is.
“Quarterback is excellent. They have a couple of good receivers, a good running back – a lot of good skill guys.
“Defensively, they’re very aggressive at the line of scrimmage, with those good skill guys playing defense, as well. They seem to be a complete team,” Morse added.
Epps says that he is looking for the Sharon offensive line to display an improvement on Thursday from their performance versus Foxboro. “We’ve worked on the offensive line and getting to our blocks. We have tightened up some plays,” he said.
Morse said, “We’ve just got to play better in all three aspects of the game – offense, defense, special teams. Try to score some more points and keep playing sound defense.”
“We know what we have to do,” said Epps. “We have to come out strong, and we have to just be ready for them. Coach Morse has prepared us all year for this and the games after this.”
Morse says that Sharon has made effective use of the 12 days in between the Foxboro game and Thanksgiving’s game.
“A lot of stuff going on. A lot of mental reps, and the kids, once they have gotten on the [practice] field, have done well. I think they’re prepared for OA,” Morse said.
“We’ve had a great week of practice,” said Fixler. “We’ve had good condo this week. I think we’re mentally prepared to beat OA.”
Fixler says that the Eagles do not want an encore of last season’s 34-8 Turkey Day defeat to the Tigers. “I hope it’s different than last year; hopefully, I’ll be more happy this year.
“It will finally feel good [to beat Oliver Ames], because every single year, since freshman year – me and all the other seniors – we’ve seen them get the trophy,” Fixler added.
Morse says that Sharon has not harped on their deficiencies in the 2011 contest. “Different team, different group. I think they [Sharon players] are motivated.
“I think they know it’s a new year. We don’t spend time looking in the past or in the future - we just worry about this week,” Morse said.
Epps says that the players are playing on Thanksgiving for more than just themselves. “We carry the whole town on our back this year. Like people have said, we’ve just got to do it for the alumni, for Sharon as a whole,” he said.
Morse says that the Eagles simply need to focus on doing their jobs. “I think the guys are just worried about their team and their job at hand.
“A win would ignite the alumni a little bit, I think, but these guys are just worried about themselves,” Morse added.
After approximately 1,500 fans packed Eagle Stadium for 2011’s Thanksgiving tilt, Epps is expecting a crazed Sharon fan base to travel to Easton and come out in full force on Thursday.
“Last year, our record wasn’t that good [4-5 before Thanksgiving], but the atmosphere was crazy,” Epps said. “We had the most fans that had ever been there.
“This year, I’m expecting more fans to be there. I’m expecting the atmosphere to be better than any game I have every played in,” Epps added.
“Typical Thanksgiving Day, with two good towns coming together,” Morse said. “A lot of people, a lot of noise – should be a good time.”
Epps hopes that he will be able to bring a different attitude to his family’s feast this year than on prior Thanksgivings.
“Last year, and the years before, I went home, and it was a very quiet Thanksgiving for me,” he said. “I want to go home happy this year.
“I want to be the loud one at the table. I want to be the one excited at the table – excited for what we have done this year. It would be the best feeling in the world, man,” Epps added.
Of being able to transition from a win on Thanksgiving morning over Oliver Ames to his turkey dinner, Morse said, “It’s always better than the alternative. Just makes the whole day go a lot better.”