St. John’s and Jefferson will be playing league foes Friday night.
The Blue Jays (4-3, 3-2 Midwest Athletic Conference) are fighting to solidify their playoff hopes (5th in Region 22) as they host another team also playing for its playoff lives, Versailles (5-2, 4-1 MAC; 7th in Region 20), 7:30 p.m. at Stadium Park.
The Wildcats (5-2) will step outside the Northwest Conference to visit NWCC foe Perry (3-4) at 7 p.m.
St. John’s coach Todd Schulte figures the Tigers have returned to some traditional schemes under new coach Adam Miller after the last several seasons being in the spread under then-coach Bob Olwin.
“They are more in the ‘I’ and run a lot of powers, especially between the tackles; they have returned to the power-running team of the past, especially when Al Hetrick was coaching. They are back to the traditional Versailles look of linemen getting off the ball, a little bit of old-school that runs downhill,” Schulte noted. “At the same time, they still have the Campbell kid at quarterback; he is an accurate thrower and can also run very well. They are more balanced this year. They aren’t real big but they have a lot of kids in the 6-2/6-3 range at 210/215 pounds. What I am most impressed with is their athleticism; we have their film against Coldwater and they matched up very well with the Cavaliers speed-wise.
“Defensively, they are primarily in the 4-3 defense. We have seen them in some blitz packages but generally, they get a lot of players to the ball. That athleticism is even truer on defense because they don’t have a lot of physical size.”
The Jays’ offense — averaging 21 points and 265.4 yards per game — will be pressed to control the football against the Tigers behind junior tailback Tyler Jettinghoff (119 rushes, 965 yards, 12 scores; 11 catches, 147 yards, 1), junior fullback Luke MacLennan (39 totes, 226 yards, 2), senior quarterback Mark Boggs (31-of-80 passing, 400 yards, 3 scores, 7 picks), senior tight end Jake Hays (5 grabs, 97 yards, 1) and senior guards Seth Bockey (5 pancake blocks) and Luke Wrasman (4).
The defense — ceding 13.9 markers and 263.3 yards per — is paced by senior Brent Schwinnen (41 solos, 24 assists), junior Cody Looser (31 and 30), senior Ben Youngpeter (31 and 16), senior Andrew Metzger (29 and 14; 2 picks), senior Kody White (21 and 22) and senior Brock Bonifas (6 quarterback harrassments).
The Jays will still be without senior starting offensive tackle Dylan Stump but get back senior starting linebacker/punter Troy Warnecke (24 punts, 34-yard average; 21 solos, 20 assists) and junior receiver Ben Wrasman from the injured list.
“Our focus this week is on cutting off their running game, especially between the tackles. To do that, we have to establish the line of scrimmage,” Schulte continued. “On the other side, we must establish the line as well; we want to control the football and get some scores on our drives.”
The Jays did that last week as they shut out Fort Recovery 28-0 in a quagmire at Fort Recovery.
“We had drives of 10, 13 and 15 plays and we scored off them; that was good to see. We’ve been striving to do that all year,” Schulte added. “Before that, the longest drive we had that resulted in a score was eight plays.
“The weather didn’t really allow the passing game and we got the running game going. Our defense also got a shutout, which is always good.”
The Wildcats of head coach Bub Lindeman hits the road to Perry Township in coming off a tough loss at home in Friday night’s rainstorm.
“They are heading in the right direction under Coach (Jesse) Kill; he is doing an outstanding job with them. They have three wins this year,” Lindeman said. “Their offense is built around a tough running back named Quis Woods; he is a hard runner and the offense revolves around him. Most of his big plays come after contact, so tackling will be very important. Our whole defensive game plan is to get as many helmets to the football, especially when he carries the ball. They rotate two quarterbacks: one is Cory Smith and he is more of a runner, while the other is a freshman — Brandon Neal — who is more of a passer.
“Defensively, it’s more like a 3-3-5 look but because we run two tight ends, we expect more of a 50 look. When you’re expecting different looks — we’re anticipating them using multiple fronts to try and confuse our blocking schemes — we’ve simply gone back over all the fronts we’ve faced this year. I feel we’ve gotten good preparation in practice this week and we’re confident we can handle whatever they throw at us.”
The Wildcats won’t have junior tailback Zavier Buzard (142 rushes, 1,024 yards, 16 scores; 7 catches, 97 yards, 1) due to injury. Powering the offense that puts up 32.4-point and 362.4-yard averages per outing are will be senior fullback Quinten Wessell (74 totes, 500 yards, 8), junior signalcaller Austin Jettinghoff (46-of-97 passing, 887 yards, 8 TDs, 4 picks; 20 extra points), junior tight end Ross Thompson (22 catches, 442 yards, 4), senior receiver Drew Kortokrax (11 grabs, 230 yards, 1; 21 points, 43.7 yards per), left tackle Geoff Ketcham (20 pancake blocks) and left guard Evan Stant (15). Kortokrax and sophomore Jordan McCann will get most of the work at tailback.
The defensive unit cedes 20.1 points and 285.3 yards per, led by such as Wessell at tackle, Thompson (2 picks) at linebacker, senior Chris Truesdale (4 picks) in the secondary, freshman Dalton Hicks at linebacker and lineman Colin McConnahea.
The Wildcats come off a 7-6 loss to NWC archrival Columbus Grove, losing Buzard early in the first half.
“It came down to execution, especially on offense. We knew it would, especially with the weather the way it was,” Lindeman added. “We didn’t get it done. We had a fumbled snap later in the first half on the Grove 3 and couldn’t get another play off. We had some other injury problems; Zavier went down and that put a lot of pressure on our passing game; with Nick Fitch, one of our other tight ends, out and a third, Jordan, getting some runs at tailback, the running game also suffered. Drew has played that spot in the recent past and he had to knock some of the rust off; he got a lot of reps this week and should be good to go.
“Defensively, we played very well. We continue to get better on that side of the ball and we’re pretty proud of the strides we’ve made from week 1 to now.”