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EARLIER: Rockets look to fill gaps vs. Trinity

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Axline, Dugle see roles increased for Trinity

By Todd Martin

 

It wasn't a two-for-one trade the Rockets wanted to make, especially not at this time of the year.

But the SCHS football team (9-2) will move on and play. At this point that's all they can do.

When senior safety/running back Kris Taylor was ejected during last week's 37-14 victory over Seneca in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs, everybody knew right away that he wouldn't be available for this week's second-round game at state-powerhouse Trinity (7-4).

"We're definitely going to miss his experience, but it's hard to tell what kind of impact him not playing will have," SCHS Coach Todd Shipley said. "It's going to be a pretty big burden on [junior receiver] Ben Axline, but not much more on [sophomore Darian] Dugle."

Those two will pick up the bulk of Taylor's workload – Axline moving into the vacated safety spot, and Dugle picking up Taylor's carries in the Rockets' heavy-run offensive package.

Axline will see his time on the field nearly double. Though he has played safety some this season, he hasn't been a mainstay in the defensive backfield. That brings to mind questions about his playing full time both ways for the first time this season.

"There's been a lot of transition this week," Axline said. "But really, I'm not that worried [about conditioning]. It's all about stopping the run. I've gotten a lot more reps [with the defense], so it should work out all right."

SCHS Offensive Coordinator Jerry Lucas said Axline can rest on offense if need be – despite the fact that he was the team's second leading receiver with 35 catches during the regular season and led the way with 637 yards and eight TDs.

"We have a lot of depth on offense that we can take advantage of," Lucas said. "If he needs to rest, we can rest him on offense."

Taylor's ability to step up and stop the run from the safety position was big for the Rockets. Axline knows he'll be asked to do that, but Shipley said there is a contingency plan if the Trinity's rushing attack starts to take over.

"We can bring Robert Rogers in if we need three linebackers," he said. "The problem is, with Kris in there, we could slide him up and disguise it better."

One thing Axline will provide over Taylor is more speed.

"I think people will have trouble getting behind us with me in there," Axline said.

Though Axline is looking to balance offense and defense, Dugle is hoping to take advantage of an opportunity.

During the spring and summer, the coaches were very high on Dugle, but injuries in the summer and early in the fall slowed his progress. Taylor also has been strong in the running game. Dugle has played mostly after games have been decided. In six games, he has eight carries for 58 yards.

 "I'm just feeling good about getting to play and helping the team," Dugle said. "I feel pretty comfortable with the first team."

Shipley noted that the Rockets will miss Taylor's blocking on offense, but Dugle provides a little more burst.

"I think maybe I'm a little quicker," he said.

The coaches are confident that Dugle can help continue the Rockets' stellar rushing attack that averaged 139.1 yards a game in the regular season.

"He's a sharp kid," Lucas said. "He grasps everything we throw at him."

Shipley added: "He's one of those kids you talk about with a very high football IQ."

  Taylor’s return

Taylor can return this season if the Rockets advance. If Shelby wins tonight, Taylor would be eligible to play in the Rockets' next game, which would be against the winner of the Male/Ballard game.

"The one thing I can say is that Kris is sincerely sorry," Shipley said. "The first thing he said to me when he came of the field was, 'I'm sorry. I let my teammates down.'"

But the Rockets can't look back now, and Taylor hasn't.

"He's been great in practice this week," Shipley said. "He's helping the guys out, he's been working on the scout team, getting us ready. Hopefully this is something he can use as a life lesson, not just a football lesson."

    XXXXX Box XXXXXX   Two-for-one trade

 No doubt the Rockets will miss Kris Taylor's experience tonight at Trinity. But just how much experience does he add?

  Defense

  Kris Taylor, Games 11, tackles 31, tackles-for-loss 2.5, INT 2, pass break-ups 5

  Ben Axline, Games 10, tackles 3, tackles-for-loss 0, INT 0, pass break-ups 1

  Offense   Taylor, Games 11, carries 35, yards 277, TDs 4   Darian Dugle, Games 6, carries 10, yards 55, TDs 0