Ben Finnegan threw seven picks against Dallas

by: FILE PHOTO - Paul Revis (6) runs the ball against Central at home a year ago. The Indians won that game, but haven't beaten the Panthers on the road since 2006.After two relatively comfortable victories at home, Scappoose is on the road once more, this time making the trip to Independence to visit Central on Friday evening. The Indians (3-0) haven’t beaten the Panthers (2-1) since 2010, and haven’t won in Independence since a 42-24 victory in 2006.

Central has been hit-and-miss this season. The opening game against LaSalle was highlighted by two interceptions, overcoming 16 first downs for the Falcons and holding on defense to come away with a 29-3 victory.

The next week was dreadful. Quarterback Ben Finnegan was intercepted seven – count ‘em – seven times, including three run back for touchdowns. That game ended in disaster for the Panthers, a 27-0 loss to Dallas in which 21 of the points were scored in the first quarter alone. Take away the picks, and Finnegan had a decent game, completing 13 of 17 passes for 209 yards. The mental mistakes made the difference, as Dallas scored just one offensive touchdown all game.

To contrast their performance in week two, the Panthers came up huge in the second half, scoring a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter to come back and beat Sweet Home 20-19 on the road. This time, Finnegan was 14 of 23 for 161 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.

   While it may be difficult to tell which team will show up in the home opener for Central, it’s safe to say their scoring is likely to come from two places. Firstly, Finnegan’s arm is his first and stubborn option. He does get out and run about five times a game, but the air attack is bread and butter for Finnegan. If the Dallas debacle is any example, he’ll continue to throw until he gets it right, no matter the mistakes.

The other staple of Central’s offense is senior running back Wesley Riddell. After a slow start at LaSalle, Riddell has carried the ball 19 times a game, averaging around 100 yards per outing. Those numbers total a vast majority of the Panther running game, which has balanced the air attack fairly well throughout the season.

Defensively, Scappoose is set up well for a team like this. They stopped the passing game and a mobile runner out of the backfield against Roosevelt. The Diesel ground attack fell by the wayside when Estacada came to town, and the Tribe flat outscored Rainier. Central’s home winning streak may be in jeopardy.

What the Indians need to do

If Scappoose is able to shut down Central’s receivers, particularly Colby Jackson (14) and Aaron Hobgood (2), they can force Finnegan to run. He hasn’t shown a particularly strong ability when flushed out of the backfield, and if the Indians can make Central rely on Finnegan’s legs to get them out of tight spots on broken plays, they’ll have success on defense. Central’s playbook isn’t filled with a lot of short pass plays. Finnegan takes a lot of shots downfield, and when the catch is made, receivers tend to run for big yardage. Getting to the ball quickly and hitting the receiver as he catches the ball are important to be sure and limit yards after the catch.

“We’ve got to put constant pressure on him and get at him and force him to throw the ball,” said Indian Head Coach Sean McNabb.

On offense, the Indians should be able to tear things up on the ground. The Panthers have given up rushing yards in bunches, and have been a little stingier with their passing defense. If Scappoose can establish their running game with Carson Davison early in the game, as well as short passes to the edges, that will open up holes in the Panther’s secondary for Taylor Loss to pick apart as Central moves defenders forward in response.

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