Division 4: Dowagiac must guard against letdown
Published 4:39 pm Thursday, November 7, 2013
The Dowagiac football team will hit the road for the fourth straight week as it heads to Battle Creek to compete for a Division 4 District championship Friday night.
The Chieftains (7-3) will face Battle Creek Pennfield (9-1) for the title. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.
Truth be told, neither team probably expected to be playing the second week of the playoffs as both were underdogs heading into last week’s opening round.
The Chieftains upset No. 1 seed Edwardsburg 21-17, while Pennfield upset No. 2 seed Paw Paw 21-17.
“If you had asked most people outside of our program and Pennfield’s program, they would have said they were going to get a rematch of the shootout between Paw Paw and Edwardsburg,” Dowagiac coach Mike Stanger said. “Obviously our kids and Pennfield’s had a different take on that. Now we both had an opportunity to win a district title and play in the regional championship game. That’s the great thing about high school sports.
“I think what people sometimes forget is that you are dealing with high school kids,” Stanger said. “You have those twists and turns and crazy upsets. It’s a great experience. I know the kids are enjoying it.”
After losing back-to-back games, including a 36-0 loss to Edwardsburg, Dowagiac returned to form against the Eddies last Friday night. The Chieftain defense, which had given up 71 points in its previous two games, Dowagiac returned to its earlier form and made Edwardsburg earn every yard and every point.
“That just goes to show you how much passion and desire play in sports,” Stanger said. “We went back to the old Dowagiac 6-2 defense and got 11 helmets to the ball faster. We played with so much heart and desire on those goal line stands. We pride ourselves in having tough kids and they certainly showed their toughness last week.”
Pennfield will use two basic offensive sets during Friday night’s contest.
Stanger expects to come out and try to establish the line of scrimmage with their Wing-T look. Then he expects them to try and open things up by going to the spread.
It was the spread formation that allowed Pennfield to score two fourth quarter touchdowns in the game’s final nine minutes to rally past Paw Paw.
On defense, Pennfield will show an odd-man front, which is nothing that Dowagiac hasn’t seen before. It does have good size, especially at the linebacker position. Stanger pointed out that it will play its safeties in the box.
“The weather is going to be better, so we are going to have to throw the ball a little bit to keep some balance,” he said. “We have to get bodies on bodies.”
As important as the Xs and Os are for Dowagiac, so is keeping the focus it showed against Edwardsburg.
“Last week we talked about the team that beat South Haven in the first round of the playoffs,” Stanger said. “This week we reminded the kids that we didn’t win a district title that year. It was almost like the district title was a bit anti-climatic.
“Last week was a great win for us and we are proud of the kids, but it doesn’t mean anything yet. We haven’t won anything this year. So we have been talking to the kids about going to Pennfield, winning the district championship and bringing it back to Dowagiac. Then we have accomplished something.”
The Chieftains after gaining revenge against the Rams dropped a 34-12 decision to Comstock in the district title game.