PDT Sports Editor
The game of football has always been labeled as a physical sport.
Friday night, that label will earn its merit when the West Senators and the Northwest Mohawks step onto the gridiron. West coach Merrill Triplett is preparing for an old-fashioned slobber knocker.
“If your kids aren’t ready to be physical, they better get ready or they will get pounded,” Triplett said.
The visiting Senators, who are 4-4 on the season, are preparing for a smash-mouth contest.
“Our defensive front has to get ready,” Triplett said. “Our front seven on defense has to get ready for a big, physical night because it’s coming.
According to Merrill, West is the smallest team in the league in terms of overall size. However, Northwest coach Brooks Fry isn’t finding comfort in the Senators lack of size and strength.
“This year, they are a little undersized compared to what they usually are but they combat that by being really aggressive,” Fry said. “Defensively, they fly to the ball.
“Offensively, their backs run hard and their line gets on people. They’re not as big as they usually are but they are very aggressive, maybe more aggressive than they have been in the past.”
The 3-5 Mohawks might have the size advantage but like every game this season, Northwest has to account for its opponent’s speed.
“We’ve seen a lot of speed in Wheelersburg and Valley, but speed is one thing that is really difficult to account for; you either have it or you don’t,” Fry said. We know West is faster than us, everybody we’ve played this year has been faster than us.”
On the offensive side of the ball, both teams are looking to employ the same game plan.
“We don’t look for big plays on offense, we look for consistency” Triplett said. “We just try to move the chains.
“We don’t worry about the big play, if it happens it happens. We’re mainly worried about first downs and heading toward the goal line,”
After attempting to accomplish the same goal for most of the season, Fry knows how to disrupt a ground-and-pound approach.
“You need to force a mistake or a negative play to get the team behind the chains,” Fry said. “When you play a team that grinds it out, what hurts those teams is when they get behind the chains because typically they aren’t built to convert third-and-8 or third-and-10.”
In order for Northwest to be successful, Fry knows the Mohawks must contain West senior Austin Bricker.
“One of the guys that’s been there for years and he’s been a great player for them since he’s been there is Bricker,” Fry said. “He’s the fullback in the T and when they go offset backs, he’s either the lead blocker or he’s getting the ball. They really try to highlight him and he’s their monster on defense.
“In my opinion, he’s their best player. He’s the leader, he makes things go.”
For Triplett, the Senators are preparing to stop an array of ball carriers.
“They run a stable of backs,” Triplett said. “I’ve faced that offense over the years, I’m well aware of what it can do. It can do a lot of damage.
“They’ve got an array of backs. They run the ball hard. We are going to have to bring our A game and we know that.”
For West to be successful, the Senators have to be disciplined on defense and cut down on the mistakes offensively, Triplett said.
Fry wants the Mohawks to be physical first and foremost. However, Fry wants his squad to enjoy the next two weeks.
“It’s senior night, so we want to emphasize not just our seniors but also all of our other players that have put in the time and effort this season,” Fry said. “(Also), it’s our last home game of the year. We’ve got two weeks left, two opportunities left, so go out and play as hard as you can, and enjoy playing the game of football and let the chips fall were they may.”
Chris Slone can be reached at 353-3101, ext 298, or firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking sports news, follow Chris on Twitter @crslone.