It’s been a streaky season for Highland’s football team in 2013, and the Hornets are enjoying the good part right now.
After losing its first three games — two by a total of just nine points — Highland enters District 7 Six-Man play on Friday with a four-game winning streak when the Hornets (4-3) entertain Rotan (3-4) at 7:30 p.m.
And an open date last week allowed the Hornets a chance to get back to basics, according to their head coach Jeff Shelton.
“We welcomed the chance to look at ourselves and the areas we need to improve,” he said. “We focused on im-proving our fundamentals, staying in game shape and improving our overall und-erstanding of our offensive and defensive concepts.”
Shelton said improved depth has been a key to the recent success, but he wants to make sure that all of his players fully understand the team’s offensive and defensive philosophy as Highland prepares for its final three games of the season.
“We never know when we are going to have to rely on a person who’s not used to getting many game reps at a position,” he said. “Lack of depth has hurt us the past two seasons, but this year I think it’s an area of strength for us.”
Right now Rotan is the team’s only focus, Shelton said, although Ira — the No. 1-ranked team in Six-Man Division I — and Hermleigh (4-3) are right behind.
Highland’s last game was a 76-60 win over its county rival Blackwell two weeks ago, while Rotan fell to No. 7 Rankin 56-18 last week.
“We’re going to have to play well (Friday),” Shelton said. “Obviously we need to tackle well in the open field and we need to take care of the football offensively.
“We had way too many mental mistakes and loose footballs against Blackwell, which made a difference in the final score of that game. We need to play at top form on both sides of the ball.”
Shelton said Rotan, now in its second year of play-ing six-man football, has improved from a year ago when the Yellowhammers were just 2-9 overall — yet still advanced to the playoffs in District 7 by beating Highland and Hermleigh.
“They run multiple sets on offense and are very ag-gressive on defense,” the Highland coach said. “Like everyone we play, they have better overall team speed and we will need to play great as a team to negate that speed.”
Shelton said his team is ready for the challenge. “I think we’re eager to get back out under the lights on Friday night,” he said.