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Excitement is bubbling over the Hilton Head Christian Academy's first-ever varsity football game tonight against Cardinal Newman at M.C. Riley Field in Bluffton. '
Yet a sense of nervousness and uncertainty pervade the home-opener as the untested Eagles face off with the Cardinals from Columbia. '
Even head coach Jim Carlen has had to adjust to the feeling of not knowing what to expect -- from his squad or the visitors. '
"They're excited ... but for someone to say that a 240- to 250-pound guy could be tackling you out there creates some trepidation," he said. "But we'll be learning by experience and we'll find out, no question, how well we can compete."'
Tonight's test is only the first for the Eagles to see just how far the fledgling program has come since posting a 5-2 record at the junior varsity level last fall. '
"We're just going to have to wait and see what they bring to determine what we'll do," Carlen said. "I do know they have two awfully big tight ends and a 300-pound tackle. We don't have a scouting report but if I had a line that size I'd try to whip us on the line of scrimmage."'
Most notable is Cardinal Newman senior lineman Corey Spigner at 6-foot-3, 260 pounds. Spigner had 96 tackles and three sacks last season. '
But while Carlen can't predict how well his team will perform, he does know that his squad is stacked with solid, multiple-sport athletes who have quickly learned the fundamentals -- giving them a solid foundation from which to apply the early experiences that may come painfully wrapped in a 300-pound lineman's frame.'
Because the Eagles' have only three players weighing in at 200 pounds or better, speed will factor heavily into the Christian Academy's equation.'
Carlen will look to first-time quarterback junior Nate Swearer, a standout on the Eagles basketball and baseball teams, to anchor the offense. '
Swearer will have a host of targets including Jake Jackson, Holt Carlen and Michael Suess. '
But defensive pressure and negating size differences will dominate the Eagles game plan. '
While the Eagles possess a mix of speed and size in their linebackers and defensive ends, the secondary could prove equally as dangerous with its quickness and youthful experience. '
And even though Carlen's squad isn't huge, the Christian Academy has a solid group of young tackles who could make the difference in outcome. '
"We'll have a hard time because they'll come after us nose up," Carlen said. "But we're going to base our play on our quickness and hopefully figure out early in the game what we need to do."'