Three county football coaches picking Patriots win

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By Robert Howey

A trio of Lancaster County prep football coaches is calling for the New England Patriots to prevail in Super Bowl LIII tonight in Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Kickoff is at 6:30 p.m. when the NFC champion Los Angeles Rams, 13-3, battle the AFC champion New England Patriots, 11-5.
The Patriots, making their third consecutive Super Bowl appearance, are a two-point favorite over the Rams.
Lancaster County prep football Coach of the Year Tripp Watts, who guided the Buford High School Yellow Jackets to the 2018 Region IV-AA football title, said he feels New England will win in their record 11th overall Super Bowl appearance.
“You can’t bet against Brady (Tom, Patriots quarterback) and Belichick (Bill, New England coach),” Watts said. “That’s really a tough combination to beat.
“Those two have been there before and that big-game experience is huge at this point,” he said.
Watts said he’s pulling for the Rams, but feels the Patriots will win.
“I like the Rams and the way they play,” he said. “They play with a chip on their shoulder and they embrace the underdog role.”
Watts noted a major key for the Rams.
“They have to get pressure on Brady and make him uncomfortable in the pocket,” Watts said. “At the same time, if the Patriots offensive line can give Brady time, he’s going to pick them apart. It’s really simple, the Rams have to play great defense because Brady is a master of coming up with the big play when it counts the most, game on the line.”
Lancaster High School head football coach Bobby Collins said he’s picking the Patriots, but expects a tight game.
“You can’t bet against Brady,” Collins said. “He’s the greatest quarterback that’s ever played. They win the game when it counts the most. That experience is tough to overcome.”
Collins said look for the game to come down to the late stages.
“Both those offenses won’t be denied,” he said. “It could come down who has the ball last.
“I do feel the Rams are going to impact Tom Brady more than people expect because the Rams have a great defensive line,” Collins said.
Andrew Jackson High School head football coach Todd Shigley said the Patriots are the favorite.
“They are the team to beat,” Shigley said. “They have more Super Bowl experience as a team and that weighs in their favor.”
Shigley said he expects the Rams to battle to the final whistle.
“They can score points and I feel it all boils down to the team that plays the best defense Sunday night,” he said. “Good, solid defense often decides who takes home the Lombardi Trophy.”
Shigley added he’s looking for a competitive game.
“You have two evenly matched teams,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a good one Sunday.”
Indian Land High School coach Horatio Blades, who played four seasons for the Washington Redskins after earning All-America honors at the University of Pittsburgh and the Big East Defensive Player of the Year, said he likes the underdog Rams.
“Aaron Donald is a Pitt guy and I am always going to back those Pitt guys,” Blades said. “Pitt has a rich football history of great players in the NFL, like Dan Marino, Tony Dorsett, Larry Fitzgerald, Mark May, Mike Ditka, Darrelle Revis, just to name a few, and now it’s Aaron Donald.
“Donald and Ndamukong Suh anchor that Rams defensive line,” said Blades, known as a defensive coach and strategist. “I feel the Rams’ defensive line, with Donald and Suh, are going to stop the run and keep pressure on Tom Brady.
“The Rams, in the off-season, spent big bucks on their defensive line and it’s going to pay off for them,” Blades said. “I look for Donald to have a heck of a game.
“I also look for the Rams’ corners to match us well with the Patriots’ receivers,” Blades said.
Blades said few high school coaches have played in the NFL.
“The speed of the game is outrageous,” he said. “There’s a speed for the exhibition season, and a next speed for the regular season, and another level for the playoffs, and then another speed for the Super Bowl.
“Both teams are going to be going all out and you can expect a really good football game,” Blades said. “In the end, I feel the Rams will win.”