PANDORA — Pandora-Gilboa has a lot to celebrate this year.
The Rockets went undefeated, won the Blanchard Valley Conference for the first time since 1999 and secured a postseason spot for the second consecutive year.
“It was one of those bucket things we wanted to do (win the title) and it was a goal of ours,” Rockets head coach Matt Hershey said. “Last year we had a chance at it and this year we wanted to finish the deal.”
But Hershey is not in the party mood just yet. The Rocket head coach is focused on his first playoff game when Pandora-Gilboa travels to face Tiffin Calvert at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Hershey added that it is similar to last year when the Rockets won their first playoff game and people were in a celebratory mood but Hershey said there would be plenty of time for that after the season but there was still plenty of football left.
The Rockets would go on to win their next playoff game before bowing out to Norwalk St. Paul in the regional finals.
Last year’s Rockets’ playoff run run gave the team a little insight and experience on what to expect in the postseason.
“You just got to keep focusing on the task at hand and right now we are hoping to play next week,” Hershey said. “If we are going to be able to do that we have to be laser focused locked in for this week.”
Tiffin Calvert comes into the game riding a six-game winning streak. The Senecas are averaging 42.2 points a game and giving up an average of 18.5 points a contest.
On offense, Senecas quarterback Trent Cooper has passed for more than 1,300 yards and 11 touchdowns and run for more than 900 yards. Senecas running back Austin Jones has rushed for more than 1,300 yards and 20 touchdowns.
“They are fast and they have some guys who are going to be in regional or state track in the spring,” Hershey said. “I think if we can limit their big play we will be in good shape and make them work down the field.”
Hershey added that he wants to get the Senacas into long third down situations.
Offensively, Hershey said it is just the opposite for the Rockets where they have to get some big plays and be efficient and get good yards on first down.
One of the advantage of having an experienced squad is the ability to add to the playbook in the playoffs.
“We try to add a couple of new things every week,” Hershey said. “We try to find something that we can exploit on the other team. I’ll be honest we probably are drawing up new stuff than running it in games but every once in a while something comes up where we think it will work and we think it is a good time to call it and it works out.”
Hershey said what they know from Calvert is not much since they do not play common opponents throughout the season so it is a different preparation in terms of learning a team quickly and with not much time.
The players were not the only ones who learned about postseason life. Hershey admits last year it was more going with the flow and this year he knows what to expect and where his guys heads are at.
“There is nothing that can be said for experience,” Hershey said. “Knowing what to expect and plan ahead and prepare for a playoff game is big.”
Many might see hitting the road as a disadvantage but Hershey said the Rockets are road warriors and he added the team seems to play well on artificial turf.
“The good thing is we get to play on turf and for our guys that is a huge thing,” Hershey said. “For whatever reason playing on turf is a big deal and we know it is Tiffin’s home field but we are excited for the chance to get out there and play in a big stadium. On the road or at home it doesn’t matter because if you want to advance you have to win and we will play anywhere and anybody.”
Division IV - Region 14
at St. Marys (9-1)
St. Marys will look to regroup in the first round of the playoffs after dropping a heartbreaking late second loss,, 26-24, to Wapakoneta last week.
Orange comes into the game with a win in its final game, 35-7 against Beachwood and finished 3-3 in the Chagrin Valley Conference Chagrin Division. The Lions are averaging 32.8 points a game and are giving up an average of 21.8 points a contest.
Lion quarterback Sean Borgman has passed for 733 yards and nine touchdowns with three interceptions and has run for 338 yards and seven touchdowns. Diante White is the leading ground gainer with 632 yards and nine touchdowns.
Huron (7-3) at Van Wert (8-2)
Huron is coming off a 24-14 victory against Edison and finishing the regular season averaging 24.9 points and giving up 15.7 points a game. The Tigers finished second behind Oak Harbor in the Bay division of the Sandusky Bay Conference.
Division VII – Region 26
Leipsic (9-1) at Mohawk (10-0)
With a dramatic come-from-behind victory over Arlington, the Vikings claimed the eighth spot in the region to make the playoffs.
The Vikings will have their hand’s full against Mohawk, who has been top ranked in Division VII or near the top most of the year. The Warriors are averaging 35.5 points a game and giving up a paltry 8.1 points a contest. In its last two games, Mohawk has not been scored on and have outscored the last two teams 106-0.
Quarterback Keith Jenkins has passed for 1,141 yards and 10 touchdowns with five interceptions and the Warriors feature a pair of backs who rushed form more than 1,000 yards. Keith Jenkins amassed 1,038 yards and eight touchdowns and Bryce Kirian gained 1,011 yards and eight touchdowns.
Division VII – Region 28
Cincinnati Miami Valley
Christian Academy (7-3)
at Crestview (9-1)
Crestview finished out the season by staking a share of the Northwest Conference crown and features two of the top players in the state in quarterback Drew Kline and receiver/defensive back Wade Sheets.
Cincinnati Miami Valley Christian Academy comes into the game after dropping their season finale to Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy 43-29.
The Lions come into the game averaging 39.1 points a game and giving up 9.1 points a contest. The Lions have recorded five shutouts on the season.
Lions quarterback Caleb Lusby has passed for 397 yards and five touchdowns with three interceptions and rushed for 657 yards. A pair of running backs spearhead the Lions’ attack. Seth Henderson rushed for 913 yards and 12 touchdowns and teammate Jon Surman gained 880 yards and scored 15 times.
Defensively, senior linebacker Joe Lusby has 16.5 sacks on the year and Henderson added 11.
at Minster (7-3)
Riverside ended its season with a loss to Lehman Catholic to prevent the Pirates from winning the Northwest Central Conference.
The Pirates come into the game averaging 25.2 points a game and giving up 20.2 points a contest.
Minster enters the postseason with back-to-back wins against Versailles and New Bremen. The Wildcats are scoring 29.5 points a game and giving up 19.5 points a game.
Reach Jose Nogueras at 567-242-0468.