LEIPSIC – Most coaches prefer not to look ahead in the schedule and usually go with the “one-game-at-a-time” approach. But Leipsic head coach Joe Kirkendall admits that they have been looking forward to playing McComb even before the season began.
The two teams come in ranked in the top 10 in Division VII. McComb is the top ranked squad and Leipsic is No. 5. Both teams boast identical 5-0 overall records and unblemished 3-0 marks in the conference.
“There is no doubt that we looked at this ballgame as an important ball game at the beginning of the year,” Kirkendall said. “It was up to us to kind of make it a point to get to where we are now and to make this game what it doesis. I give our credit to the kids for not looking ahead. Our kids have worked hard to get to where they are at and it is not a surprised we are where we are at.”
The experienced Vikings came into the season with some unfinished business after last season was derailed with injuries at the end of last year so this year it was all business for Leipsic during the offseason. Coincidentally, it was McComb that sent the Vikings home from the playoffs with a 21-0 win .
“We had an excellent offseason,” Kirkendall said. “I think as much as anything else we had a veteran group coming back with lots of experience. Our kids work typically hard and as much as anything it is the fact that guys have embraced their roles and understanding who they want to be and what they want to be as football team.”
It did not take Leipsic to get right into the season this year with an impressive 55-7 win over North Baltimore followed by a dominating 48-18 win over Columbus Grove. In week three the Vikings handled Liberty-Benton 34-7 and then proceeded to win the next two with a close game against Van Buren 25-20 and a 34-13 win over Hopewell-Loudon last week.
The Vikings offense is averaging 38.6 points a game.
Offensively, the Vikings have one the most balanced attacks in the area. In its first five games, the Vikings have averaged 219 rushing yards a game and 158 passing yards a contest.
Quarterback Dylan Schroeder has passed has passed for more than 800 yards and thrown seven touchdowns.
Receivers Cole Rieman and Tyler Heigel have been Schroeder’s primary targets and both are capable of big numbers.
On the ground, the trio of Kaiden Rader, Juan Pena and Gavin Lomeli provide an assortment of looks. Lomeli, who has run for more than 100 yards in three of the four first games, has seven touchdowns this season.
“We are up and down and had a week four down week at Van Buren but for the most part the offense has been the strength of the team,” Kirkendall said. “We play very well on that side of the ball and when we avoid the fumble or hurting ourselves we have done a good job and again it all goes back to guys knowing their roles.”
Kirkendall added that the offensive line has been playing a high level.
Defensively, the Vikings are giving up 13 points a contest.
“Our run defense has been the strength of our defense,” Kirkendall said. “Our secondary is mostly new and teams have tried to take advantage but we are not giving up a lot of big plays but we are not getting off the field but we are tackling for the most part and not giving up big plays and we are doing a pretty good job up front. We create a lot of negative plays for opponents.”
Kirkendall said the defense is still evolving and not close to where he expects to end up. Against Hopwell-Loudon the Viking head coach continues to shuffle in players to find the combination that helps him win games.
Leipsic has also avoided hurting itself with penalties. The Vikings have been flagged 10 times all year.
The Vikings will probably need one of those near perfect games against top ranked McComb. The Panthers come into the game averaging 51 points a game while giving up 10.8 points a contest.
Led by quarterback Tanner Schroeder, McComb is coming off a 39-12 win over Arlington. In that game Schroeder, along with running back Kheagan Loe rushed for a combined more than 330 yards. Loe who rushed for 143yards, is averaging more than 110 yards a game this year.
Kirkendall said the key to being successful against the Panthers starts up front.
“As much as anything we have to control their front five and their defensive line and their middle linebacker are tremendous football players,” Kirkendall said. “We have keep them from putting us behind the sticks and we have to try and take away the negative play and stay on blocks because they play at an incredibly high level.”
Defensively, Kirkendall added that they will have to tackle and try and contain Loe and Schroeder and get a lot of hats to the ball.
“We have to communicate,” Kirkendall said. “They will throw a litany of formations and groupings and things at us so we need to communicate and adjust and handle what we can handle.”
WESTERN BUCKEYE LEAGUE
St. Marys took a big step towards securing the Western Buckeye League title after bumping off Kenton 70-29 last week to be the lone league team without a loss. The Roughriders (5-0, 4-0) will try to keep their record with out a loss when they travel to Elida (2-3, 2-2) to take on the young Bulldogs. Elida is coming off a 56-12 loss to Wapakoneta.
The Redskins (4-1, 3-1) will look to continue their winning ways with host Bath. The Wildcats (0-5, 0-4) were beaten by Defiance 28-8. Defiance (3-2, 2-2) will take on Celina (3-1, 4-1) who looks to stay in the WBL title hunt. Ottawa-Glandorf (2-3, 1-3) faces Shawnee (1-4, 0-4).Both teams are coming off losses. Shawnee lost to Van Wert 39-6 and Ottawa-Glandorf was beaten by Celina 42-24. Kenton (3-2, 3-1) looks to get back to in the win column when they face Van Wert (3-2, 2-2)
LIMA CENTRAL CATHOLIC VS. WOODLAN (INDIANA)
The Thunderbirds (5-0) had an impressive showing 36-6 victory over Toledo Rogers and will travel across state lines to take on Woodlan Friday. After losing its first two games, the Warriors have reeled off four straight wins. In their modest four game win streak, Woodlan has outscored its opponets 173-56.
LIMA SENIOR VS. FREMONT ROSS
The Spartans (1-4, 0-2) looks to end their two-game losing streak against Fremont Ross (2-3, 1-1) after dropping a 41-7 decision to Toledo Whitmer. In its last two games the Spartans have been outscored 97-14. Fremont Ross comes into the game dropping a heartbreaking 31-28 loss to Toledo Jesuit St. John’s.
DELPHOS ST. JOHN’S VS. MINSTER
The Blue Jays are looking to snap a four-game losing streak but it won’t be easy against Minster (4-1, 2-1). The Wildcats defeated Parkway last week 62-35. Delphos dropped a 27-0 decision to Versailles. In its four-game skid, St. John’s has been outscored 137-24.