St. John’s is coming off a big Midwest athletic Conference win — a 20-18 defeat of Versailles at Stadium Park — as the Blue Jays host MAC foe New Bremen tonight.
Jefferson is looking for its own big win tonight as they invade co-Northwest Conference front-runner Ada.
Jefferson head man Bub Lindeman and his coaching staff have seen the high-flying Bulldogs (8-0, 6-0 NWC) up close and personal in his three seasons.
This might be the most complete one.
“They still spread you out with a lot of receivers but they have the running back more involved this year in Kellen Decker. He has 1,357 yards rushing and 19 touchdowns, so he is a legitimate threat,” Lindeman noted. “Throw in another typical Ada quarterback in Mason Acheson (6-3, 215; 2,213 yards passing) that is big and mobile with a nice arm. Plus, though their receivers aren’t the fastest guys out there, they are very quick and effective on the perimeter; you don’t want these guys to get an edge. This is a typical Ada offense but it is much more balanced between the run and the pass; that is scary.”
The Wildcat defense — giving up 18.9 points and 279.4 yards (115.6 passing) per game — will be under the gun. Lindeman will need top performances from the likes of Quinten Wessell (67 solo stops, 31 assists), Ross Thompson (64 and 24), Dalton Hicks (53 and 28), Drew Kortokrax (41 and 13), Colin McConnahea (31 and 14), Zac Bland (26 and 15) and Chris Truesdale (5 picks).
“Defensively, this might be the best I’ve seen from them. They are aggressive and physical and have played very well,” Lindeman said.
The Wildcat attack — 34.3 points and 364.9 yards (248 rushing) — has a two-headed tandem at tailback this week with junior Zavier Buzard (142 rushes, 1,024 yards, 16 TDs; 7 catches 97 yards, 1) coming back from injury and Kortokrax (15 for 164, 2; 11 catches, 210 yards, 1; 21 punts, 43.7-yard average) subbing for him last week now in the mix. As well, Wessell provides an inside option (86 totes, 600 yards, 12). Junior signalcaller Austin Jettinghoff (47-of-100 passing, 927 yards, 8 TDs, 4 picks) looks to go over 1,000 yards passing, with the prime target being classmate Ross Thompson (23 grabs, 482 yards, 4). Left tackle Geoff Ketcham (28 pancake blocks) and left guard/center Evan Stant (18), as well as tight end Jordan McCann (9) will need to have big games.
“You pick your poison with an offense like this. We really feel that, contrary to what others might think, we have to stop the run because that sets up a lot of their stuff this year,” Lindeman continued. “We feel we have a great chance if we can make them one-dimensional. You really have to pay attention to what goes on in the backfield.
“Offensively, we have to grind it out. Everyone knows we want to run the ball but that is even more important this year. We need to control the football, the clock and mount long drives. We can’t afford turnovers.”
The Wildcats (6-2, 4-2 NWC) belted Perry 47-10.
“That was a much-needed victory after a tough loss the week before to Columbus Grove. I felt the kids rebounded very well throughout the week,” Lindeman added. “We had the chance to let Zavier heal and he will get some carries. We established the line of scrimmage, especially the second half. We got some of our younger kids action under the lights and that is always nice for them; they work hard, too.”
ST. JOHN’S/NEW BREMEN
The Blue Jays (5-3, 4-2 MAC) are well in the hunt for a playoff home game but head coach Todd Schulte is not taking anything for granted against the 2-6 Cardinals (2-4 MAC).
“If you look at them from the start of the season to now, they have gotten steadily better. They lost 21-13 to Anna last week, good proof of that,” he explained. “They run the option offense, as well as tons of mis-directions; we counted them in 60-plus formations throughout the year. Garrett Westerbeck is a good runner and has broken off some long runs in the option game.
“Defensively, they have been in a 40 front, mostly a 4-4; they will walk outside linebackers up and make it a 6-2 or move one linebacker up; they will stack the line against the run.”
The Jays — who average 20.9 points and 284 yards per game — will operate behind tailback Tyler Jettinghoff (143 rushes, 11,84 yards, 13 TDs; 14 catches, 160 yards, 1), fullback Luke MacLennan (48 totes, 308 yards, 3), Mark Boggs (37-of-91 passing, 478 yards, 3 TDs, 8 picks), Jake Hays (5 catches, 97 yards, 1) and Andrew Metzger (5 for 72, 1).
The defense, which gives up 14.4 points and 254.3 yards, is topped by Brent Schwinnen (45 solos, 29 assists), Cody Looser (41 and 31), Kody White (25 and 26; 3 fumble recoveries), Metzger (33 and 15; 2 picks), Ben Youngpeter (32 and 16), Troy Warnecke (22 and 22) and Jettinghoff (2 picks).
The Jays may also get back right offensive tackle Dylan Stump from a weeks-long absence due to injury.
For Schulte, the game plan remains the same.
“We want to establish our running game. I hope that we have turned the corner because our offensive line has started to come together,” he said. “We talked about it last week, about how we’re running out of time to get there, and we took some steps toward that goal last week. We need to take more steps this week.
“Defensively, we have to play assignment football against their option and misdirections. We do a lot based on formation recogition but with that many to choose from, that won’t work this week. Wejust have to play solid, fundamental defense this week.”
The Jays solidified their playoff hopes (4th in Region 22) with last week’s win, stopping a 2-point conversion late and then running out the clock.
“That was a big win. The defense played well; we held a running-focused team to 81 yards,” Schulte added. “We got another 200-yard-plus rushing performance from Tyler and that is a great sign moving forward of that we are doing up front.
“We told the kids before the game that it still comes down to blocking and tackling. We didn’t miss a tackle and that is a first for us this season and we blocked very well up front.”
Both games kick off at 7:30 p.m.