Tuesday, November 6, 2007

SSC Takes Aim at Menominee Juggernaut

Division 5 Regional Final Preview: SSC Takes Aim at Menominee Juggernaut
by Brent Baker of Buckland Media

STANDISH-STERLING - The Standish-Sterling football team has known for the past three years that the road to Ford Field goes through Menominee.

The past two seasons, they haven't gotten the chance to play the Maroons, who won last year's Division 5 state title with a dominating squad that never allowed more than 10 points in a game.

This year, they do, and while Menominee hasn't been quite as dominating, they're still 11-0 defending state champions, riding a 25-game win streak and appear to be playing their best football of the year.

"For the past two years we've talked about getting the chance to play them," said SSC coach Paul Walderzak. "We're looking at this as a great opportunity to play the state champs, a team that is very, very good again this year.

"We think we have a good shot. But we also know we have to play the best football we've played this year."

Offensively, the Panthers will have to account first and foremost with Upper Peninsula player of the year Matt Eisenzopf, who has a reputation for being able to singlehandedly blow apart offensive game plans.

"He's tough, quick and just flies to the ball," Walderzak said. "He doesn't waste any time thinking about what he's going to do.

"As a running back, he runs the ball the same way. He has good speed and you really need to do a good job of wrapping him up."

Eisenzopf lines up offensively with halfback Ethan Shaver, another all-UP player that rushed for more than 1,200 yards. Adding to the challenge is the Maroons' single-wing offense, a holdover from the era of Notre Dame's Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse -- the style of football played before the mid-'50s but seldom seen today.

In the single wing, the running backs receive a direct shotgun-style snap from the center and run, pass, hand-off, spin or pitch the ball, while the quarterback is more of a blocking back that lines up behind the tackle. While there are variations of the single wing that depend on deception, Walderzak said the Maroons play it with more emphasis on straight-up power.

"Their two backs are both very good athletes who can both run, throw and catch the ball very well," Walderzak said. "They run a lot of power off tackle and traps and they throw it more than we thought they did. And they can give you a lot of different looks."

While the state title squad was virtually unchallenged through 14 games, this year's team has had a couple of close calls. Late in the year the Maroons held on for an 18-13 win over a 4-5 Marquette squad, then trailed Marinette (Wisconsin) at halftime before winning 28-14.

On the other hand, Menominee trounced Kingsford 35-0 in the fifth game of the year -- the same team that just ended NEMC co-champ Ogemaw Heights' season 51-12. Menominee has also outscored its two playoff foes 94-7.

Still, there is a reason the games get played on the field, and imposing foe or not, the Panthers are looking forward to taking their shot at the perennial power.

"We're in good spirits and excited," Walderzak said. "I have no doubt we'll give them our best."

No comments: