Ethan Kise of FHS looks to avoid Cardington tacklers in this file photo. The Panthers will host Philo this evening. (Journal-Tribune photo by Chad Williamson)
The coronavirus pandemic has brought two football teams which have never played each other together for this evening.
The Fairbanks Panthers and the Philo Electrics were scheduled to play different opponents this week.
The Panthers (1-1) were set to host Southeastern, while Philo (1-1) was slated to face McConnelsville Morgan.
Southeastern and Morgan canceled their Week 3 games after members of their football teams came down with COVID-19.
Officials from both Fairbanks and Philo spent considerable time on Monday searching for an opponent.
“There wasn’t anybody inside central Ohio who had an opening at that time,” said FHS head coach Patrick Cotter. “Hunter (assistant coach Burnett) and I spent a long 4-plus hours looking for an opponent.”
Cotter said he was finally able to get in contact with Philo head coach Dirk Linicone through some networking.
“It turns out a guy I played baseball with at Muskingum University is the defensive secondary coach at Sheridan High School,” he said. “I got Philo’s coach’s number from him.
“So you see, it always pays to be nice to everyone.”
The Electrics are a team that has shown an ability to put a lot of points on the board and yet also yield scores.
Philo opened the season with a 41-0 victory over Athens and then dropped a 49-12 verdict to Millersburg West Holmes last week.
The Electrics are a spread zone read offensive unit.
Cotter said Philo will give FHS’ defense some different looks with doubles, trips and even two-back formations.
“Their quarterback (Owen Smith) makes them go,” he said. “They’ve got several good skill position players, but he’s the one who drives the team.”
The Electrics like to first establish their ground game and are described by Cotter as a 60-40 ratio running squad.
Other ground threat is running back Carter McCutcheon.
Philo’s skill players will operate behind a sound line.
“They’ve got decent size on the offensive line,” said Cotter. “They’re not huge, but they’re athletic.
“I’d say they’re thick, but quick.”
The Panther boss says his offensive line will be a good match for the Electrics’ defensive front.
“Our offensive line and their defensive line are both physical,” said Cotter. “It’s going to be quite a ball game in the trenches.
“Their skill players like to get out in the open,” he continued. “They are going to try and make us tackle in space.
“We just have to follow our rules on defense and get five or six hats to the ball as quickly as we can.”
Philo will line up in a 3-3 stack defense.
It’s an alignment that is similar to the one the Panthers would have faced against Southeastern.
“They like to blitz and run to the ball well,” said Cotter. “It’s an up-tempo defense that pursues the ball well.”
Cotter said the opposing defensive unit could walk linebackers up to create a five-man front.
“As we are a running team, we expect opponents to crowd the box against us,” he said.
“If we stick to our offensive rules in our Wing T, I think we’ll be able to pop some big plays against them.
“Teams could put five, six or eight guys in the box in an attempt to try and stop our running game,” he said. “If we don’t fall for the smoke and mirrors of some of these defenses, we’ll be OK.
“We just can’t allow them to hit us over the head with the mirrors.”
Cotter said the Panthers, after learning of Southeastern’s cancellation Monday afternoon, were a bit down during that day’s practice.
“Once we got the game scheduled with Philo, I started texting the guys,” he said. “I got a lot of great responses back.
“The guys are juiced and just happy to play a game this week.”
What would make the week all the much better would be a victory.
Just what will be the key to such a celebration?
“We have to stay on track on both sides of the ball,” said Cotter. “I think we’ll be able to open some seams against their defense and I feel our defense is going to be able to close down some things for their offense.”