With one non-district game remaining, the Sterling Rangers hope to make the best out of their date at Houston’s Barnett Stadium 7 p.m. Friday against HISD’s Austin High School.
Following an 0-2 start, the Rangers need a win to go into the bye week on a high note as district play looms two weeks from now.
Last year, Sterling beat Austin 28-7 in Baytown.
Austin (1-1) comes in after a 30-16 loss against Westside. The Mustangs offer multiple looks on the offensive side of the ball.
“They have a lot of size up front and they have some skill guys that can cause some problems,” Toomer said. “Their receivers are tremendously tall: They have to be about 6-foot-2, 6-foot-3 across the board. They try to get a balance of run and pass and their quarterback is a good athlete.
“Our defense is playing well so hopefully we can pick up the intensity and give them some problems. This game is vital to go into the bye with a win, keep them hungry and keep them motivated.”
Sterling’s defense has stepped up well these first two games and that has come with confidence with familiarity in what coaches, including defensive coordinator Alvin Dotson, expect.
“They are reacting to what they see,” Toomer said. “Defense is about want-to and they are gelling together.”
Toomer likes the matchup and the chance to win the Rangers first game while the players are showing what that confidence can do.
“We are feeling very confident because each week we are getting better and finding new things to work on,” senior running back EJ Hawkins said.
“Fatigue is holding us back. Coach has been running us a lot at practice so we can’t get tired. You have to be ready to play all four quarters.”
Hawkins believes the players did work harder this offseason while acknowledging the team could have done more to be ready for the grind.
Hawkins also notes the passing game needs to get going to complement the Sterling ground attack.
“Everyone still has the same mindset to get to the playoffs,” Hawkins said.
Toomer believes it’s just a matter of finishing drives.
“We cost ourselves these past two games offensively,” Toomer said. “We had no problem moving the ball, we just have to finish what we start and not shoot ourselves in the foot.”
It’s all about connectivity in the passing game which only provided 47 of the team’s 207 total yards in its last game.
Toomer admits losing to a former school he worked at – Aldine Nimitz from 2009-20105 – as the Rangers did a week ago, 16-14 on a last-second field goal, is displeasing, but he admits its all a part of the building process.
“I tell them all the time: Just because you put the work in it doesn’t always mean you are going to be successful,” Toomer said. “Last week we had momentum and didn’t capitalize on that. Also the only way you overcome adversity is to know you are in it.”