Panther gridders to host West Liberty on Friday

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Fairbanks’ Chase Litzke gains yardage on this play. The Panthers will host West Liberty-Salem on Friday.
(Journal-Tribune photo by Mac Cordell)
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A ground-oriented West Liberty-Salem football squad will invade Kyre Field on Friday to face the Fairbanks Panthers.
The Tigers sport a 6-1 record, with their only loss coming against Mechanicsburg a couple of weeks ago.
The Panthers (4-3) rebounded from their Homecoming setback to West Jefferson to defeat Northeastern last week.
West Liberty will line up in the spread, but likes to run the football.
“They will throw when they have to,” said FHS coach Patrick Cotter. “But they will run the ball about 70 percent of the time.
“It’s nothing fancy,” he said. “They just line up and say ‘you guys stop us.’”
Quarterback Major Stratton and running back Braden Miller will handle most of the ground chores.
They will maneuver behind an offensive line that is physical and gets off the ball well, according to Cotter.
The Panther boss said the key to stopping the Tigers’ offense will rest with the Panthers’ defensive line.
“We have to control the line of scrimmage,” he said. “We can’t allow them to play on our side of the field.
“Our defensive line will need to allow our linebackers to run downhill and be physical.”
West Liberty has shown a couple of defensive fronts this season, namely a 4-3 like the Panthers employ and also a bit of three-man front.
Cotter said he expects to see a three-man front from the Tigers.
“They like to blitz inside and outside,” he said. “They are a mirror-image of us in that they play very physical football on defense.
“It’s going to be a power game,” said Cotter. “People are going to get knocked around and our defense must get off the field on third down.”
With the Tigers bringing a lot of pressure on most snaps, the FHS offensive line must protect quarterback Jacob Nicol.
“We’ve got to keep Jacob clean, like we did last week,” said Cotter. “If we can do that, it should allow him to get the ball to our playmakers.”
One of those playmakers – receiver Tyler Beem – is listed as day-to-day after an injury last week, according to Cotter.



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