September 14, 2018 10:03:52 AM
WEST POINT -- Chris Craven knows how to play the numbers game.
The Oak Hill Academy football coach remembers a time when the Raiders played with 11 high schoolers and three middle schoolers just in case.
The 2018 squad hasn't reached that number of healthy players, but the absence of senior running back / defensive end Ethan Bryan for Oak Hill Academy's game against Carroll Academy at 7 p.m. Friday has further depleted a roster that already is without Archie Miller, who suffered a season-ending injury.
"At Oak Hill it is next man up, next play, things happen," Craven said. "It is football. People get injured and people have to come out. Different things happen. The numbers have dwindled a little bit, but we still have football players."
Oak Hill Academy lost Bryan to a concussion last week in a 36-10 loss to Winona Christian Academy in its Mississippi Association of Independent School (MAIS) Class AA, District 1 opener. Oak Hill Academy (2-2, 0-1 district) will look to even its district mark against Carroll Academy, which comes in at 4-0. Last week, Carroll Academy defeated Newton County Academy 25-6. Oak Hill Academy beat Newton County Academy 9-7 in its second game, so Craven expects another tough challenge.
That task will be a little harder because Oak Hill Academy's depth, which already was hovering in the low 20s, will be put to the test without Bryan. Craven said junior Jaden Craven, who is his son, will have to move to fullback in an attempt to provide balance with running back Jonah Caskey and quarterback Ash Cullum. Coach Craven said the absence of Bryan means other players will have to emerge and the Raiders will have to find a way to do other things with their remaining personnel.
"All you can do is go out there and do your very best, coach your very best, and play your very best," Craven said.
Craven said injuries and sickness have hampered the Raiders through four games. He said the players were disheartened after Miller suffered a broken leg, but he said he is looking forward to getting some players back healthy next week. Craven said everyone was thankful Bryan didn't suffer a more serious head injury or a neck injury, and that he looks forward to getting Bryan back as soon as possible.
Craven said the coaches will continue to look for new "wrinkles" to maximize the talents of the remaining skill position players. He also said the teaching will have to continue to help players transitioning to new positions to keep the team moving forward. Craven said the message won't change until everyone returns.
"Do you job. Do what you're supposed to do. Be tough. Be physical. Play fast and play smart," Craven said. "I think good coaches are in this business to help boys become men, so regardless of what the situation is, that message never changes, either. There is going to be adversity in life and tough times, and everything is not always easy, so it always gives you that message that that is the way it is and you still have to get up and go and work."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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