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MAC Football Week 12 Playoff Previews

November 8, 2012
By Nathan Pohlman of Midwest Athletic Conference (MAC)

With one week of the high school playoffs in the rearview mirror, Midwest Athletic Conference teams find themselves in a familiar spot as they bulled their way to an unblemished 5-0 mark in the opening round, with an average margin of victory of more than 27 points.  This week things get a little tougher for most of the local squads as Marion Local and Minster will lock horns on Friday night in Piqua, while St. Henry will tangle with Ada up the interstate at Lima Stadium at the same time.  The Delphos St. John’s Blue Jays will also be in action Friday evening when they square off with Fremont St. Joe in Bowling Green, while Coldwater will resume action on Saturday in Piqua against the West Liberty Salem Tigers.


In a battle that has evolved into an absolute playoff grudge match for the past couple of years, will be no different in 2012.  Nate Moore’s Minster Wildcats enter the battle on the cusp of their best season record-wise in decades, while Tim Goodwin is enjoying his eighth straight post-season appearance.  The teams met two years ago in Wapakoneta with the Wildcats sending the Flyers home with a 30-26 loss, only to have the Blue and Gold get them back a season ago with a 28-0 shutout en route to the Division VI state championship.  The Flyers took the regular-season meetings on both occasions, but they did not meet this regular season because of the bi-yearly scheduling adjustments administered by the MAC. 

Last week, both teams over-powered a pair of opponents from the Cross County Conference, as the Wildcats blasted Tri-County North 48-7, while Marion Local knocked out Bradford, 53-27.  The Wildcats were led in their win by quarterback Adam Niemeyer, who tossed for 264 yards and five touchdowns.  Devon Poeppelman was on the receiving end of four of those balls for 76 yards and a touchdown.  Through the course of the game, Niemeyer became Minster’s all-time leader in career pass completions and single season leader in passing yards, while Poeppelman etched his name in the record books as the leader in receiving yards in a single season.   We played well last week - we jumped out to an early lead and held on for the win,” Moore acknowledged.  “We were also able to get some younger kids in the game which is always good.  This week we need to protect the football and limit holding penalties; we simply can't make those types of mistakes and expect to win the game.”

Over in Maria Stein, the Flyer defense knocked helmets with one of the best statistical running backs in the state - Bradford’s James Canan.  Although Canan racked up 172 yards including a 57-yard touchdown, the Flyers had little trouble bottling him up, particularly in the second half.  This week, Goodwin understands the caliber of opponent his team will face and hopes his group is up for the stiff challenge.  “It was nice to get this young team their first playoff game at home and be able to have a normal game day routine for them,” Goodwin, who picked up his 150th coaching victory of his career against Bradford, explained.  “Although we didn't play Minster this year, we are familiar with them because we have played them four times in the previous two years.  Coach Moore and his staff have done a great job of making their program into a perennial playoff power in Division VI.  Their offense is a big concern with the skill athletes that they put on the field with Schultz, Kaufman, Wolf, Poeppelman, and Niemeyer.   On defense, they probably mix up their coverage and stunts as much as anyone that we have played.  We are anticipating having to play our best game of the year this week to have a chance at advancing.”


The St. Henry Redskins improved to 2-0 all-time in playoff games at home with their 45-14 victory over the Fort Loramie Redskins last Friday.  The Redskins were led in the victory by a heavy dose of passing from senior quarterback Kyle Stahl, as well as running back Adam Reichert, who logged 98 yards on the ground.  The Redskins will meet the Bulldogs for the fifth time in their history, and were victorious in the four previous meetings in consecutive seasons from 1976 through 1979.  Ada is 0-5 all-time against the Midwest Athletic Conference in the playoffs, including four previous losses to Delphos St. John’s and last season to Marion Local by a final of 41-14.  Ada enters the game 10-1 overall, with their lone loss coming in week ten to the unbeaten Lima Central Catholic Thunderbirds.  They are powered by an explosive offense that averages 40 points per game.


Last week in a seven-point victory over the Leipsic Vikings, St. John’s head coach Todd Schulte witnessed a pleasant resiliency that he knows is definitely needed this time of year if his team hopes to capture the Division VI state championship.  The Blue Jays sprang out to the early 21-0 lead against the Vikings, but Leipsic dusted themselves off and pulled to as close as seven points before St. John’s went into the intermission with a 28-14 lead.  Leipsic refused to roll over following the halftime break, and they pulled in front 29-28 with just over nine minutes to play.  Things remained that way until a three-yard run by Tyler Jettinghoff with under a minute left bumped his team back in front.  The two-point conversion made it a seven-point margin, by which the Blue Jays went on to win.  Jettinghoff finished the game with 81 yards and a touchdown.  “Our kids truly showed some grit Friday night,” praised Schulte.  “I really thought we were done for on their last offensive drive, but our kids kept plugging away and made some big plays.  It was a very satisfying win for us.”

On the same evening, Fremont St. Joe downed Ottawa Hills 27-3 to improve to 10-1 on the season.  The Crimson Streaks have averaged 30.2 points per game, while their only loss came to 10-1 Liberty Benton in week one by a final of43-13 .  The Crimson Streaks last faced an MAC opponent in the post-season back in 1997 when they fell to St. John’s in the regional final, 19-7.  “St. Joe runs a very balanced offense - we will need to be very detail-oriented and each kid must play team defense,” Schulte added.  “Offensively, we need to continue to put scoring drives together as we did last Friday in order to come out on top.”


The post-season march toward the Division V state title began for the Cavaliers last week in their 42-7 domination over the Miami East Vikings.  In the victory, Austin Bruns was simply awesome by completing 20 of his 26 passes for 353 yards and five touchdowns.   As the season enters week 12, things have become a little less about the x’s and o’s for head coach Chip Otten and a little more about his team’s mental approach.  “As the season has got into playoff mode, our practices have become shorter,” he pointed out.  “We know that we can physically play, and we want to stay healthy and fresh.  The mental preparation and practicing efficiently and focused is more important at this point than the physical aspect of things.”

This week, the Cavaliers will face the West Liberty Salem Tigers, who are currently 11-0 on the season.  Offensively, the Tigers average a lofty 46.4 points per game, while allowing 12.6 each time out.  The Tigers have faced Midwest Athletic Conference foes twice previously in the playoffs - both have ended in losses, including a 42-14 defeat to St. Henry in 2009 and in 2011 against Versailles by a final of 48-21.  “West Liberty Salem is undefeated, so they are a good team who is confident that they can beat
anyone,” Otten remarked.  “Offensively, they do a good job of creating situations to get their playmakers the ball in space.  On defense, they are very aggressive with their blitzes and try to create chaos for the opposing offense.   They do a great job of getting off the ball up front, and they run to the ball really well.  We just need to continue to play our game, avoid mistakes, and we should be in good shape overall.”   

By Robb Hemmelgarn


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