Fairbanks linebacker Tanner Ufferman (19) pursues a ball carrier. The Panthers will travel to Fort Recovery for their first playoff game on Saturday. (Journal-Tribune photo by Tim Miller)
The Fort Recovery Indians will present Fairbanks’ defense with a balance between the pass and the run.
The teams will battle on the Indians’ home field on Saturday at 7 p.m.
It will be the Panthers’ (4-2) first Division VI playoff game after a first-round bye.
“The guys responded to our bye week pretty well,” said Fairbanks head coach Patrick Cotter. “We worked on us and made sure our fundamentals were right.”
The coach said this week has been devoted to countering what the Indians will do on both sides of the ball.
Fort Recovery is led by quarterback Clay Schmitz. He’s completed 81-of-134 passes for 1,216 yards in six games.
He’s also thrown for nine touchdowns as the Indians have posted a 2-4 record.
“They’re pretty split between the pass and run,” said Cotter.
“Schmitz is a big guy who stands 6-3,” he said. “He can really sling the ball and reminds me of Kyle (former Panther QB Warner).”
Schmitz has two solid receivers in Gaven Thobe (25 receptions for 324 yards) and Reagan Martin (22 for 442).
Despite a solid passing game, the Indians can also move the ball on the ground.
Derek Jutte has carried it 87 times for 436 yards and eight touchdowns.
“They’ll run the ball and then throw over top of you,” said Cotter. “Our biggest defensive challenge is to make sure we don’t get caught looking out the window.
“We’ve got to keep our eyes right as to what Fort Recovery is doing.”
The Indians will employ a 43 defensive alignment.
“Their line is big and their kids are aggressive,” said Cotter.
Thobe is the team’s top tackler with 73.
“Their line will sit in a group and work to stop our running game,” said the Panther head coach. “With their size, we’re going to have to get our blocks on their hips.
“It’s a defense that is similar to Northeastern’s (which the Panthers defeated 35-20 on Sept. 4),” said Cotter. “We’ve gone up against big defensive lines before and done fine.”
Although the Indians’ defense is designed to stop the run, the Panthers will look to first establish their ground game.
“We’ve got the top rusher in the Ohio Heritage Conference,” said Cotter.
The coach was referring to Brogan Green.
He leads the OHC with 616 yards on 81 carries and has scored seven touchdowns.
Riordin Stauffer has tallied 242 yards on 33 attempts.
“We’re going to pound the football like we’ve done all season,” said Cotter.
While the Panthers have hung their hats on their running attack, they can also move the ball in the air.
“We’ll look for the play-action pass when it’s available,” said Cotter.
First-year starting quarterback Ethan Kise has been extremely accurate this fall.
He’s completed 41-of-68 passes (60.3%) for 527 yards.
Kise has thrown for four TDs and has been picked off only twice.
“Ethan is very athletic,” said Cotter. “Between him and our running backs, we can do a lot of things.”
The Panther boss said the contest should be an old-fashioned head-knocker type of a battle.
“Fort Recovery is going to come off the line and try to punch us in the mouth,” said Cotter.
“We have to be the more physical team,” he said. “We have to be ready to rock and roll.”