FHS D must contend with Madison Plains’ running attack

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Fairbanks head football coach Patrick Cotter (right) and assistant coach Mark Sullivan signal in the defense last week against Greenview. The Panthers will travel to Madison Plains on Friday.
(Journal-Tribune photo by Tim Miller)
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A Madison Plains football team that likes to rely a lot on the ground game will host the Fairbanks Panthers for the fourth week of the 2018 high school season on Friday.
The Golden Eagles (0-3) will operate out of the Wing T and feature quarterback Jarrett Vallery and running back Kosta Xenikis.
“Their quarterback is their workhorse,” said FHS head coach Patrick Cotter, “and Xenikis is a hard runner.”
The duo operates behind what Cotter describes as an “old-school, Marysville High School-type of offensive line.
“Some of their linemen are 180 pounds and very fast,” said Cotter. “They’ve got a couple of tackles, though, who are a little beefier.”
The Eagles will employ one tight end and one wingback most of the time.
“They run a lot of off-tackle and buck sweep stuff,” said Cotter.
A predominate running game shouldn’t bother Fairbanks’ defense all that much.
“We’ve seen a little bit of everything this year,” said Cotter.
“We just have to fill the gaps and pursue downhill,” he said. “We also have to be great tacklers.”
The Golden Eagles have used both four-man and three-man defensive fronts this season.
One of the problems is that Plains has a good many players going on both offense and defense.
“I think just about everyone but the quarterback plays on defense as well,” said Cotter.
That could wear down the Eagles in the latter stages of the game.
Still, the Panthers have to be concerned with Plains’ defense.
“They are going to blitz a bit from different directions,” he said. “They’ll come at you from both the inside and outside.
“Their linebackers (Xenikis and Dalton Allen) move pretty well.”
Cotter said the Panthers’ offensive line must take care of business.
“I think our line can control the tempo of the game,” he said. “We just have to account for everybody that Madison Plains puts in the box and get ‘hat-on-hat’ with them.”
The Panther coach feels the game will be decided in the trenches.
“We have to control both lines of scrimmage,” he said. “If we do that on offense, I think that will allow our playmakers to get into space.
“If we can do that defensively, I think we can attack the football.”
Friday’s game will be the second contest in which senior quarterback Jacob Nicol will be back at full strength.
It took Nicol one half against Greeneview last week to shake off some of the rust after being out since the preseason with a knee problem.
“I feel confident that Jacob is going to be OK as the season progresses,” said Cotter. “He knows how to play football.”



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