Both St. John’s and Fort Recovery are coming off Midwest Athletic Conference losses a week ago.
Both will try to get back on the right track Friday night as the Blue Jays invade the home of the Indians.
Both are 3-3: the Blue Jays (5th in Region 22) at 2-2 in the MAC and the Indians 1-3.
“They have a different look this year: they remain built around the quarterback but he is a power-runner. Mason Evers has over 1,000 yards rushing and he runs a lot of powers with the one back leading through,” St. John’s mentor Todd Schulte explained. “In essence, he is also their tailback; he’s very hard-nosed and has taken a lot of punishment but with good results. They still run the spread.
“Defensively, we have sene them in a 4-4 and 4-3 and they do a fair amount of blitzing, which has been something we’ve struggled with up front this year. At times, they give up a lot of yards and points; at others, they are far stingier.
“Overall, this is definitely an improved program.”
Leading the Blue Jay offense (averaging 19.8 points and 254.5 yards per game) are junior tailback Tyler Jettinghoff (93 rushes, 732 yards, 10 scores; 11 catches, 147 yards, 1), junior fullback Luke MacLennan (33 rushes, 208 yards, 1) and seniors Mark Boggs (26-of-69 passing, 350 yards, 3 TDs, 6 picks), Jake Hays (4 catches, 74 yards, 1) and Andrew Metzger (4 for 53, 1).
The defense, ceding 16.2 markers and 296.2 yards per, is led by Brett Schwinnen (36 solos, 24 assists), Cody Looser (26 and 29), Ben Youngpeter (29 and 15), Metzger (28 and 14; 2 picks), Troy Warnecke (21 and 20; out for this game with an injury) and Kody White (14 and 20).
The Jays, who are still without the injured Dylan Stump, Ben Wrasman (may be back next week) and the punter, Warnecke (24 punts, 34-yard average), missed enough opportunities to cost them a 14-0 loss to Marion Local.
“That’s what it was about. We had chances to make big plays and didn’t come through; you will not beat good teams like Marion doing that,” Schulte added. “What I am most concerned about is that we seek to improve every week and I don’t think we’ve done that yet; we’re running out of time. It seems like we’re repeating the same mistakes each week. We simply have to get out of this pattern.”
The Indians of coach Brent Niekamp come off a 31-28 loss to New Bremen.
“We started the year with a lot of young, inexperienced players; we are using a lot of sophomores on both sides of the ball. We are also using some key players in different spots than before,” Niekamp began. “Mason was our left tackle last year; we needed him in there because he’s such a good athlete and we had a veteran skill core but needed linemen. Same thing for our tight end, Trent Kayser; he was a guard last year. Our skill players were seniors last season, so they got moved back. We’re starting to get more balance on offense; earlier, we’d only throw four times a game and run it the rest, which is the exact opposite of the past.
“Defensively, we’re in the same boat; we only have maybe three seniors playing a lot; the rest are all sophomores and juniors. We’ve had our difficulties on both sides of the ball but we are making strides; it hasn’t been a straight trajectory but it’s been there.”
Besides Evers, who also plays some at safety, and Kayser, also at outside linebacker, other key cogs for the Indians are Evan Schoen at cornerback and Jacob Schoen in the secondary, both also seeing time at wideout.
“Jettinghoff is a gifted runner in their backfield but I believe (MacLennan and Boggs) are underrated; they are capable of making big plays. I think the offensive backfield is their strength,” Niekamp added. “We definitely have to get a lot of people to the football and tackle well
“Offensively, it’s about making strides and continuing to progress. We must take pressure off Mason running the football. Our receivers are starting to get open more and if we can mix in the pass better, we have a chance.”