|Jays, Vikings ready for playoff tussle|
|Friday, November 08, 2013 9:24 PM|
By JIM METCALFE
The St. John’s football team stood at 2-4 after week 6 and knew that for them to play in week 11, they couldn’t afford to lose another game.
The Blue Jays did just that, arriving at tonight’s Division VII Region 26 quarterfinal matchup at top-seeded Leipsic with a 6-4 mark (6-2 in the Midwest Athletic Conference).
”No doubt, they are led by their 3-year starting quarterback, Zac Kuhlman; he is a senior and plays like it. You think they would do it mostly through the air but when you see they stats, they are even in both the run and the pass; Schulte explained. “This is a very balanced offense that keeps your defense on its toes. (Jordan) Chamberlin is an excellent back; he doesn’t run with power — at most he’s 160 yards — but he’s more of a scat-back who’s tough to bring down. Kuhlman also has two primary targets outside. Up front, they have good size on both sides of the ball.
“Defensively, we have seen them in multiple front, which is always a concern because you have to always be alert. Whatever they are in, they want to be aggressive, get into your backfield and disrupt. That makes it very important that we limit that penetration so we can establish our running game; that is who we are and teams know that. Kuhlman is also a very good player at safety.”
The Blue Jay offense, averaging 23.6 points, 216.2 yards rushing and 51 yards passing per game, will rely on tailback Tyler Jettinghoff (186 rushes, 1,040 yards, 20 touchdowns; 6 catches, 55 yards), fullback Luke MacLennan (76 carries, 581 yards, 6; 14 grabs, 243 yards, 2), quarterback Nick Martz (108 totes, 503 yards, 3; 38-of-98 passing, 491 yards, 2 TDs, 9 picks), wideouts Evan Hays (6 grabs, 69 yards), Andy May (5 for 82) and Ben Wrasman (5 for 15; 27-of-32 extra points, 1 field goal; 34 punts, 36.9-yard average) and linemen Spencer Ginter (13 pancake blocks) and Wes Buettner (5).
The Blue Jay defense, ceding 23.1 points, 198.7 yards rushing and 152.7 yards passing, is paced by linebackers Cody Looser (71 solo tackles, 42 assists) and Austin Heiing (48 and 27), secondary mates Hays (42 and 28, 2 picks) and Jordan Mohler (44 and 13), linebacker/safety Jettinghoff (29 and 19) and ends MacLennan (35 and 10) and Jason Wittler (19 and 26).
“We viewed the last four games as playoff games; it was do-or-die, so we’ve faced ‘playoff’ pressure since week 7. We had two barn-burners — overtime at Versailles and last week versus Minster — in those four games where we had to battle to the end; if it’s a close game, I don’t see us getting tight because we haven’t,” Schulte added. “Last week, we couldn’t stop Minster the first half but that was a different defensive team we had the second half. We have been a defense that has given up yards but for us (tonight), the second key is not giving up the big play. If they can drive the field on us in 12 plays, so be it; we need to adjust. But we need to make them earn their points.”
Leipsic football coach Joe Kirkendall figures his team has grown up over the course of 2013 as his Vikings compiled an 8-2 mark, 6-2 in the Blanchard Valley Conference.
“We had a young team at the beginning of this season; we had a lot of new faces that needed to get varsity game experience. We have five sophomores starting and several inexperienced juniors really getting their first varsity taste,” he explained. “Around week 4, against Arlington, we did not play very well and we made some changes in personnel and schemes, particularly on defense. We moved people around; we had defensive linemen moving to linebacker and vice versa, for example, all in an effort to get more speed on the field. At the beginning of the year, we knew the defense was going to have to come a long way because that’s where most of our losses to graduation were.
“We made some changes on offense as well, though we had more back there at the beginning. We figured out our limitations scheme-wise, what we do well and what we don’t. That did the trick for us. I felt that put our players in better positions to succeed. Of course, we built the offense around our senior quarterback, Zac Kuhlman, and the rest of the offense has gelled with him.”
The Vikings have a symmetrical offense that averages 33.6 points per game: 181.7 yards rushing and passing. Kuhlman leads the way (104-of-174 passing, 1,589 yards, 20 scores, 8 picks) but gets plenty of help from scat-back Jordan Chamberlin (5-8, 155; 1,206 yards rushing — 9.1 yards per carry - 26 TDs), sophomore receiver Nate Brecht (47 grabs, 809 yards, 9 scores) and receiver Dylan Schey (17 grabs, 300 yards, 3) operating behind a veteran and nice-sized offensive line led by 6-5, 265-pound tackle Kyle Berger and 6-6, 271-pound center Gavin Cupp.
For the Purple and Gold defense, who gives up 20 points, 115.9 yards rushing and 133.1 yards passing an outing, is led by Kuhlman’s six picks out of a team total of 16. As well, Schey (defensive back), Ryan Santana (linebacker) and Paul Gerdeman (line/linebacker) have also been bellwethers for the defense.
Kuhlman also averages 31.1 yards per punt.
Kirkendall is very familiar with the Blue Jays, having faced them three times in the previous four seasons before tonight’s matchup.
He knows the particular problems they present his Vikings.
“They have a tremendous backfield with the tailback and fullback with a lot of size and speed, then with a quarterback that is very shifty and runs the option well. They have as good a backfield trio as we’ve seen,” Kirkendall added. “They also show a lot of patience as runners. They also are very sound in what they do on both sides of the ball; they don’t beat themselves.
“I feel that size-wise, it’s a good matchup. The only difference is, their speed guys are bigger than ours. However, overall, we have some nice speed as well.
“I think we can compete with them; we’ve shown in the past that we can. What it comes down to is which players can handle the atmosphere and environment; it will be intense. You would think that both teams have been in plenty of big games but they are still 16 and 17. You have to stay poised and composed; when you do that, you don’t turn the ball over, you don’t commit penalties, you don’t make mistakes.”
Kickoff is at 7 p.m. tonight.