The Eagles, who are 11-1 overall, took control early by grabbing a 14-0 lead after a quarter of play, but the Tigers switched to a pesky zone defense that slowed Excel’s well-oiled offensive machine.
Excel scored 11 points in the second period but allowed eight points by the Tigers and had a 25-8 lead at the break.
Both teams were sluggish offensively in the third period as Excel outscored their foe, 6-5. Both teams scored 19 points in the fourth quarter.
“We came out playing with a lot of energy,” coach Jon-Michael Nickerson said. “Our defense and our offense both were looking good. But then they went into a zone defense and we struggled. It was a adjustment their coach made that we never really found an answer to.”
Nickerson said the team has practiced well against the zone but now must bring that performance to the game.
“We have to get more confident against the zone in game situations. It’s like we’re not seeing it very well. What’s crazy is we look great in practice and I guess we’re not trusting our eyes and believing what we’re seeing in game situations. We’ve got to learn to have that same confidence we have in practice in games.”
The Eagles coach expects his team to face more zone defenses as the team tangles with its Region 6A-A foes.
Nickerson noted this season region play for single A schools will be under different rules with non-region contests figuring in the teams’ power rankings. “Every game matters because you get points for wins and you don’t get any for losses.”
He noted teams that win their region tournament go automatically to the state playoffs but the power rankings will help select the other participants.
“It’s a lot different than it was last year,” Nickerson said. “Every game matters.”
Excel now faces a gauntlet of 12 region games. It plays one nonregion game, against St. Pius X, a AAA school. Of Excel’s 11 wins, eight are against teams in higher classifications than the Eagles. The final three wins came against teams in single A.
The Eagles next play Friday, Jan. 4, when they entertain Christian Heritage.
King’s Ridge Christian fell to 3-3 overall with the loss. It is 0-3 in its region.