Riordin Stauffer (24) of Fairbanks picks up yardage last week against Triad. The Panthers will host state-ranked Mechanicsburg on Friday. (Journal-Tribune photo by Tim Miller)
Fairbanks head football coach Patrick Cotter said his team started getting into the meat of its schedule when Ohio Heritage Conference North Division games began a few weeks ago.
The Panthers must prepare for a big slab of beef when state-ranked Mechanicsburg comes to town on Friday.
The Indians sport a 7-0 record and are tied for first place with Archold in this week’s Division VI state poll.
Mechanicsburg is described by Cotter as being a power-run team that will hit an opponent with a play-action pass on occasion.
Jake Hurst has rushed for 502 yards on 52 carries and scored 10 touchdowns.
Quarterback Aaron Conley has matched Hurst’s rushing touchdowns and has also completed 69.8% of his passes for 12 touchdowns.
“Hurst and Conley are their main play-makers,” said Cotter. “They will keep lulling you to sleep with their running game and then hit receivers with a play-action pass.
Danny Mascardri has latched onto 17 passes for 205 yards.
Hurst has 16 receptions for 284 yards and Kailen Butler has caught 14 for 260.
“We are going to have to play assignment football on defense,” said Cotter. “We have to be correct with our positions, because if you make a mistake they will make you pay for it.”
Mechanicsburg knows how to put points on the scoreboard.
The Indians has tallied 253 points, with last week’s 34-7 verdict over Northeastern (4-3) their lowest output so far this season.
Fairbanks (5-2), however, has been a very solid defensive team, allowing just 66 points to date.
The Indians are also an aggressive defensive team that will line up in everything from the 44 to the 52.
“As they are on offense, they are just a solid defensive team,” said Cotter. “Hurst is one of the premier ‘mike’ linebackers in Ohio.
“They don’t do anything fancy,” said the Panther coach. “They just try to beat you with their base defense.”
That’s something the Indians have had much success with this fall.
Through seven games, Mechanicsburg has allowed just 73 points with a pair of shutouts to its credit.
“They just play straight, fundamentally-sound football,” said Cotter.
The Indians will encounter a Panther team that has scored 195 points and is on a four-game winning streak.
Cotter anticipates nothing fancy will be the difference in the outcome of this contest.
“The key to winning this game will be which is the most physical team in the trenches on both sides of the ball,” he said. “It will also come down to which team can run the football more efficiently.”
The Panthers will go into the contest averaging 303 yards rushing on the ground.
They are led by the tandem of Riordin Stauffer and Brogan Green.
Green leads the club with 752 yards on 96 carries, while Stauffer has picked up 688 on 77.
Ethan Kise (207 yards) and Ryker Green (172) are also ball-carrying threats for the Panthers.
The Indians are averaging 181 yards rushing per game.
“Both teams have a great deal of respect for each other,” said Cotter. “It’s going to be a tough, hard-nosed OHC North Division game.
“It’s going to be 11 guys on both sides doing their jobs for the collective benefit of their teams,” he said. “We’re both just going to try and mash each other.”