Benitez mans middle of field for ‘Cats
RADFORD – This being election season, a projection is in order.
High school football experts project the Radford middle linebacker to have an exceptionally challenging Friday evening to come in one of the key battleground areas of the gridiron landscape.
Early returns will indicate host Clintwood intends to follow traditional Coal Country campaign strategy and mine the ground game en route to the ultimate prize in the Group A Division 1 West opening rounder Saturday afternoon.
This may not be politically correct to say to members of the environmental lobby, but energy investors can bet their portfolios that the defending state champs intend to chew up a lot of real estate to accomplish their goals.
Which brings us back to the aforementioned “Mike” linebacker. Most of that digging will be right in the neighborhood patrolled by Bobcats junior Eric Benitez.
As the old timers used to advise: Better tie those shoelaces a little tighter, son.
“They’re going to be a tough opponent and pretty good in size,” said Benitez, no little guy himself. “I feel like if the team stays together, we can pull through.”
They’ll stay together. They’ll have to. It’s a long ride over to the Kentucky border in the shadow of menacing Red Onion Mountain. As for shadows, there will be a some, or what passes for same this time of year, as this contest will take place 2 p.m. Saturday., roughly the same time of day December of last year when the Greenwave overwashed the Maroon Tide of Galax in the title game.
This Clintwood ballclub is similar to that one: big, strong, keep-it-simple, low turnover, high ball control.
“They’re really physical, they get after it, they lower their shoulder and come at you,” Radford coach Matthew Saunders said. “And they have a quarterback who can throw the football.”
All the more reason a ballclub needs a man at the middle position. Benitez is that man.
It’s a back-against-the-wall kind of position. The 5-foot-10, 210-pound Benitez has a stout back. He’s had to have one. Radford may be 3-7, but eight of the 10 teams it has played are in the postseason.
“I think it puts a little chip on a player’s shoulder,” he said. “As in, we’re going to go over there and they’re going to think they’re going to clean the field with us. We’re from Radford. We have some pride in us. We have some fight in us for this tournament. It ought to be pretty exciting.”
Benitez has always had plenty of fight in him even if his defense as a whole occasionally has not. In six of the seven losses, the Bobcats have surrendered at least 40 points.
“We haven’t been as good defensively as I’d like to be,” Saunders said. “But these guys are learning and getting better. He’s getting better. The whole unit is getting better.”
Time is running out. That’s the thing about a ball control power team like the beefy Greenwave. They play short games.
“We’ll focus on the run,” Benitez said. “My role will be to make sure all the players don’t get down on themselves. It’s the nature of beast. Big players are going have to make big plays.”
That’s his emotional role.
“I’m definitely going to have to stay at home against these guys. I have to make sure I give up nothing weak side or straight ahead. Can’t be too aggressive looking for too much.”
Here’s what Benitez can look for. He’s going to be busy Saturday and not just keeping the middle of the defense stacked up. He’s also starting at offensive guard.
Election years remind us that each citizen is asked what he can contribute to the greater good.
The votes are in. Benitez’s contributions to the greater good of the Bobcats have been many.
The Roanoke Times | 381-1672
No Comments »
No comments yet.