Ready for a regional rumble
Unbeaten Maroons dig in to face tough running game of Standish-Sterling Central
Thursday, November 14, 2013 6:00 PM
MENOMINEE - The Walton Blesch Field careers of 11 Menominee seniors will come to a close Saturday in the Division 5 regional title game.
Menominee fullback James Brown breaks through the Grayling line for a big gain during the Division 5 district title game. EagleHerald/Jody Korch
The 20 seniors on a hard-nosed Standish-Sterling Central team want to add a Walton Blesch Field memory to the 36-year career of coach, Paul Walderzak, who is retiring.
The Ford Field goals of the Maroons (11-0) and Panthers (9-1) will collide at 1 p.m. Saturday.
"Our seniors want to go out with a great effort," Menominee coach Joe Noha said. "All of their key guys are seniors and they want to keep their coach on the sidelines for another week or two."
The Panthers will rumble into Blesch with a versatile ground game that grinds out 262 yards per game behind a massive front line.
"They have three or four formations, but their primary formation is their pound-it-out formation, with two tight ends, and a flanker out of the pistol," Noha explained.
"They're physical. They're definitely a reflection of their coach. They pound the ball and they get after it."
Like Menominee, Standish-Sterling has three running backs and a blocker on the edge that mow down defenders.
Senior Jimmy Cousins (6-2, 190) has rushed for 748 yards in eight games for a 93.5 per game average. Cousins is also a gamebreaker as a kick returner, averaging 32 yards per return.
Seniors Matt Crawford (5-10, 170) and Jimmy Spencer (5-11, 165) have combined for more than 1,200 rushing yards.
"Cousins, Spencer and Snyder are very similar to our guys," Noha said. "Cousins carries the mail for them and gets chunks of yardage."
The Panthers averaged just 71 passing yards, but senior quarterback Austen Snyder (5-9, 155) is a threat to run when he rolls out.
Cousins, Spencer and Crawford like to run behind the big frame of Central Michigan University recruit, Clay Walderzak (6-4, 245). The Panthers' tight end racked up 16 pancake blocks through the first 10 games.
"One of their tendencies is to run behind Walderzak," said Noha. "We have to be prepared to meet force with force. If you don't bring resistance back at him, you don't have much of a chance."
When the Panthers do put the ball up, Walderzak and Seth Malcolm are the main targets. Walderzak had 19 receptions for 19-yard average and Malcolm (6-3, 238) is the deep threat with a 28.1 average on just 12 receptions.
Snyder averages just eight passes a game and has 10 TDs and has had four passes picked off.
"Our play selection will have to be a little different," coach Walderzak told Mlive.com. "We might have to put it in the air a few more times. We also are going to have to be more aggressive with our runs. We have been happy to burn clock in the last couple game. On Saturday, I think we are going to need to push a little to get first downs."
The Panthers will try to draw double teams on noseguard Anthony Prohaska (6-3, 280) and Walderzak and Malcolm are blocking beasts at tight end.
A rugged Panthers' defense which has given up just 110 points will have to contain the Maroons' powderkeg attack that outscored its first two playoff opponents 110-21.
Standish-Sterling has allowed just 14 points in the playoffs, second only to Olivet (12 points).
Menominee junior tailback Justin Brilinski needs just three yards to reach the 1,000-yard mark for rushing and he went over the 1,000-yard mark in passing last week.
Senior fullback James Brown has 873 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns and senior and wingback/tailback/receiver Devon Harris has surpassed the 1,000-yard total for rushing and receiving.
"I've seen a couple games of theirs on film, and from what I saw they are a pretty darn good football team," coach Walderzak said. "They are big, and they play fast. It's going to be a great challenge. They run power football. They aren't just going to try and get past us, they are going to try to run over us."
Crawford and Cousins have collected 34 solo tackles and Walderzak has 29 solo stops in the Panthers' 5-2 defense.
Menominee's first-team defense hasn't been scored on in the playoffs and the Maroons have allowed two or less TDs in nine of their 11 games.
The Maroons have switched their practices to the baseball field at Spies Field while the Walton Blesch turf is being restored following last week's game.
The winner of Saturday's game will play the winner of Saturday's Millington (9-2) at Muskegon Oakridge (10-1) game in the semifinals.