The Triad Cardinals have had a turnaround season this year and the proof is in the numbers.
They currently sport a 5-1 record, but this week will be a real test when they square off with West Liberty-Salem.
The Tigers are a team that Triad head coach Joe Cardinal said will give his squad a physical challenge.
“West Liberty plays a physical style of football and we’ve got to match that physicality” he said. “I think they may be the most physical team we have played this year.”
Even with the physical nature expected to be high, Cardinal believes Triad can play that style of football.
“Defensively, we are going to have to play a physical brand this week,” he said.
“It is a different level and I think we are up for it, but it is going to be a fist fight.”
The Tigers will bring a 4-2 record with them to North Lewisburg. They will also bring quarterback Trevor Woodruff, who is second in the Ohio Heritage Conference in passing with 1,126 yards through six games. He’s also thrown to 11 different receivers.
Cardinal said the Tiger QB’s production is from West Liberty’s ability to play with a large playbook.
“They have a lot of different formations,” he said. “When you break them down, they have 20-25 different formations. They do a little bit of quick screens and they have a quarterback who seems to just always make the right reads.”
But not only do the Tigers have talent on the edges and in the pocket, they also like to use a lot of different backs to move the ball on the ground.
Zayne Reed is the Tigers’ “go-to” runner with 305 total yards rushing, but West Liberty has employed 10 different backs to get the job done.
“They seem to just have a lot of backs who run the ball hard and a line that plays downhill,” Cardinal said.
The coach believes the key to stopping all of the Tigerss talent is in the match-ups.
“We just have to read those keys defensively and get lined up,” said Cardinal. “That is going to be a major key and we have been practicing this week.
“Being able to read those formations and line up to them will be important.”
One big factor of the Cardinals’ ability to slow down the Tigers will rest with Riley Louck. He is leading the league in sacks with 10 and is among the top five tacklers with 57.
The Cardinals also have some offensive weapons of their own. Dylan Rice is leading the league in rushing with 895 yards, while Isaiah Bruce is leading in reception yards with 608.
With league leaders on both sides of the ball, Cardinal believes this will help him in the battle to come.
“I guess you can say that we can rely on both sides of the ball,” he said. “We have been in tight games where we have been behind late in the game.
“We have come back and won, so our guys are resilient and they are handling adversity well.”
Cardinal also added that in order for his team to get where it wants to be, this is the type of game it needs to go out and win.
With the stiffest challenge of the season still to come, the Cardinals will need to bring all of the experience from their season to the field tonight to give themselves a shot at victory.
The game is scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m. at Triad High School.
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