New Haven coach Jim Rowland does not mince words when asked to describe what happened in his team's 30-6 blowout loss to Class 4A No. 10 East Noble last week.
“To be honest, East Noble took us to the woodshed,” Rowland said. “They physically beat us up front and dominated the line of scrimmage.”
The Knights surely dictated the pace up front, but the Class 4A No. 9 Bulldogs did not help their cause much. In six trips inside the red zone, New Haven scored just once while accumulating four penalties.
That said, Rowland does not believe the game was a letdown after the Bulldogs clinched at least a share of their first NHC championship in Week 7.
“We ran into an East Noble team ready to play and they presented some challenges we hadn't faced (this season),” Rowland said. “I felt like our kids were ready to play.”
The 30 points surrendered by New Haven (7-1, 5-1 NHC) last week was second only to giving up 35 to Carroll this season. The three weeks prior to the East Noble game, the Bulldogs had given up 27 points total in three blowout victories.
“We didn't overlook East Noble, we just got complacent,” Rowland said. “We did not prepare the way we should have prepared. Even our scout teams were not bringing it as much as they used to.”
It was a disappointing game for a team many considered the most consistent in the area through the first seven weeks. But the Bulldogs have a chance to redeem themselves in a big way Friday at home against Homestead, a team that has beaten New Haven nine straight times.
The last three wins by the Spartans have been especially tough on the Bulldogs, each of which denied New Haven a share of the NHC championship in the last three season finales.
A victory over the Spartans gives New Haven sole possession of the NHC title.
“We came up empty the last three years (against Homestead),” Rowland said.
“We have put ourselves in a position to win the conference outright two wins in a row. We did not get it last week, so it would feel fitting to do it against a very good Homestead team.”
The Spartans (5-3, 3-3) want to avoid their first three-game NHC losing streak since 1994. While the high-powered offense consistently putting up 50-plus points is gone – at least for this year – coach Chad Zolman's team is still a threat.
“Homestead can still do everything that they have done over the past couple of years,” Rowland said. “They have athleticism up front, get after the ball on defense and throw the ball very effectively.”
The New Haven offense will look to get back on track against the Spartans. While Jordan Hogue is always a threat on the outside, pounding out yardage with running backs D'Andre Smith and Javin Easterly will also be a part of the game plan.
After last week's issues, Rowland believes his team has rebounded.
“Last week was the first time we have gotten punched in the mouth,” Rowland said. “It is good before the postseason to see how we respond to that.”