Jacob Fenik (7), Drew Begin (10) and Jackson Izzard (5) of Jonathan Alder are all in on the play that brought down a London ball carrier. The Pioneers will host Thornville Sheridan during Friday’s opening round of the Division III state playoffs. (Photo submitted)
The Jonathan Alder Pioneers will face a multi-faceted offense when they host Thornville Sheridan on Friday.
The 7 p.m. kickoff will mark the opening round of the Division III state football playoffs.
The Pioneers have been a mainstay in the D-IV post-season for a number of years.
This, however, is their first playoff venture in the higher division.
Alder will take a 10-0 record into the contest.
JA finished the regular season ranked No. 2 in Region 11 of the division, while the Generals are No. 7.
“Sheridan will use a tight end at times and then go more to the spread,” said Alder head coach Brett Glass. “They are always going to run out of the shotgun, but they are at approximately a 60-40 ratio in favor of keeping the ball on the ground.”
The infantry attack is led by Joseph Munyan, a sophomore who has tallied 905 yards on 95 carries. He’s also scored eight touchdowns.
Quarterback Nate Johnson has thrown the ball only 118 times and has completed just 53 for 1,058 yards. Johnson has thrown 14 touchdowns, but has also suffered nine interceptions.
Johnson, however, can be a force to be reckoned with as he can take off with the ball. He’s rushed 68 times for 428 yards and a trio of TDs.
“Johnson is a good runner, but he throws the ball well when he has to do so,” said Glass.
The top receiver on the squad is Logan Ranft (18 receptions for 320 yards).
“Just the fact they are so balanced is going to make it difficult for us to match up,” said the Pioneer boss. “There isn’t just one area in which we have to stop.”
The Alder secondary was gashed a few times last week against London during the regular-season finale.
Does that concern Glass going into Friday’s contest?
“London threw the ball a little more than they usually do, but we tried to make them do that by shutting down the running game,” he said. “We were selling out to stop the run, so giving up some passing yards is going to happen.
“I’m not really concerned about our secondary.”
Alder has a solid defensive backfield in Cade Keaton (four picks), Drew Begin (three interceptions), Jacob Fenik (one interception returned for a touchdown) and Jackson Izzard (two interceptions, one for a TD).
Jonathan Alder’s offensive unit will face a 4-2-5 defense, similar to what it encounters each day during practice sessions.
“It’s their base defense and they will blitz here and there,” said Glass. “Their front six will try to stop our running game.”
That may be easier said than done, since the Pioneers have senior Garret Proxmire, who has tallied 1,375 yards and 17 touchdowns.
“Sheridan is going to be physical inside and try to force us to throw the ball,” said Glass.
That strategy could backfire, as the Pioneers have a solid aerial attack.
Quarterback JT Keith has completed 65 percent of his passes for 1,667 yards and 26 touchdowns.
Izzard has 36 receptions for 567 yards and 12 touchdowns, while Fenik has 37 catches for 565 yards and six scores.
“We have to be balanced with our offense and take what their defense gives us,” said Glass.
The Alder head coach knows what it will take to win the game.
“We have to control our emotions during the atmosphere of a playoff game,” he said. “We know the stakes are high, so we have to focus on the task at hand and take care of the football.”
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