HARROD — Allen East has had a memorable season. The Mustangs posted a 9-1 overall record and a 6-1 mark in the Northwest Conference to capture a share of their first league title since 1995. The nine wins produced this year are the most since 1990.
Allen East is also making its first appearance in the postseason since 2006 and the Mustangs are looking to add some additional memories to this historic season.
“It is great for this school and this community to experience this,” Allen East head coach Wes Schroeder said. “We really haven’t been in the conversation since about 2006. This Friday is monumental for our school and our program.”
The Mustangs playoff opener comes Friday when they travel to face Liberty Center (9-1).
Allen East has been in the playoffs three times and owns one postseason win.
Schroeder said that is has been the culture and foundation instilled by the players and coaching staff that is the key to the Mustangs’ hitting these milestones.
“It has been a pretty big season with the adversity we had to overcome and it is fun. It is the culture we have had and that is when a kid goes down it is next guy up,” Schroeder said. “We play hard for each other for four quarters and whatever happens happens. We will live with it and know we gave it our all.”
Schroeder said the team’s confidence is sky high going into the postseason.
“I think the greatest thing our coaching staff has done is we have created a culture on loving each other. They don’t want to let each other down. They don’t care who gets the job done or who gets the touchdown or who gets the tackle. At the end of the day we just want to have one more point than the other team. I think that is where our biggest strength comes from and our confidence.”
Schroeder added that there is no better feeling than seeing his players pick each other up and being excited for each other.
Love and confidence are one thing but the Mustangs will need to execute, avoid turnovers and try to stop the Liberty Center running game.
The lone blemish on the Mustangs’ record came in week 5 when they lost to Spencerville, 21-7. Since that defeat, Allen East has reeled off five straight wins and has outscored its opponents 208–58. The offense has scored 40 or more points in four of those games and the defense has held its opponents to single digits in three of those contests.
“Our defense is playing well and our offense isn’t playing terrible and our special teams is producing so when we win we get contributions from all three phases and that is big for us and something we have had our last few games,” Schroeder said.
Schroeder said the Spencerville loss was a tough one, however, it may prove beneficial this week against Liberty Center. The Tigers, like the Bearcats run the Wing-T offense.
“They (Spencerville) is a Wing-T team and that is what we are going to see this week,” Schroeder said. “We can kind of redeem ourselves against a powerhouse football team like that. Liberty-Center is very talented and very physical like Spencerville.”
Liberty Center comes into the Division VI game averaging 37.7 points a game.
Leading the way on offense is signal caller Camden Krugh. The Tiger quarterback has passed for 1,388 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Schroeder added that stopping the run game is essential to beating the Tigers but at the same time they have to worry about the big play, especially in the passing game.
Behind Krugh, running back Zach Bowers has rushed for 1,235 yards and 15 touchdowns on 173 carries and backfield mate Max Phillips has gained 950 yards and four touchdowns on 140 carries.
“We’ve been playing well and it begins with Blake Hershberger in the middle and our defensive front,” Schroeder said. “We have to do our job and tackle well and get 11 guys on the ball and give ourselves a chance to get them off the field on third and fourth down.”
For the Mustangs, quarterback Bryce Belcher finished the regular season with 1,497 yards with 16 touchdowns and six interceptions and was the team’s leading rusher with 584 yards and 14 touchdowns on 107 carries. A trio of Mustang receivers are in the top 10 in the NWC in yardage. Cole Fletcher had 32 catches for 475 yards and three touchdowns and teammate Bradden Crumrine hauled in 31 catches for 461 yards and eight touchdowns. Logan McCluer rounds out the top three receivers with 33 catches for 365 yards and four touchdowns.
On special teams, Fletcher led the NWC in punting with a 39.5 average.
Overall, Allen East is averaging 312.7 yards a game in total offense.
Even though it has been more than a decade since the Mustangs were in the playoffs, Allen East is preparing like it is just another game.
“Week 11 was always our goal,” Schroeder said. “It is just a team we have never seen in an atmosphere we have not been in before so that is what makes it exciting.”
All games begin at 7 p.m.
Fairview (9-1) vs. Lima Central Catholic (9-1) (Spartan Stadium)
Lima Central Catholic is coming off another impressive win after beating state ranked Lucas, 14-7, and garnering the No. 1 seed in what many consider the toughest region in Division VI.
Fairview is averaging 37.7 points a game and giving up a paltry 5.7 points a contest.
The Apaches are coming into the game having recorded three straight shutouts and in seven of their games this year have yielded seven or less points.
The Apaches won the Great Meadows Conference with a 6-0 mark.
Apache quarterback Cade Polter spearheads the offensive attack. Polter has passed for 2,441 yards with 30 touchdowns and six interceptions. Against Ottawa Hills last week, Polter passed for 256 yards and three touchdowns.
The Apaches top receivers are Caleb Frank who has caught 46 passes for 531 yards and six touchdowns and Cade Ripke who has 32 catches for 358 yards and three touchdowns. Riley Lucas has hauled in 35 catches for 474 yards and seven touchdowns and Doug Rakes who has 33 catches for 414 yards and eight touchdowns.
Defensively, linebacker Chayse Singer has 129 tackles and 18.5 tackles for loss.
Trotwood-Madison (7-3) at Wapakoneta (9-1)
The two teams renew their postseason rivalry once against this year. The Rams had owned the Redskins up until last year when Wapakoneta downed the Rams 24-21, to spark and deep playoff run.
Wapakoneta comes into the Division III game riding a five-game winning including a 7-6 thrilling win over Ottawa-Glandorf to secure a share of the Western Buckeye League title.
The Redskins come into the game averaging 31.7 points a game and giving up 9 points a contest on defense. Wapakoneta has given up 7 or less points in seven of its games this year and in its last four games has given up 16 total points.
Trotwood-Madison limps into the playoffs with back-to-back losses.
Rams running back Hezekiah Hudson-Davis leads the team in rushing with 1,005 yards. Quarterback Cooper Stewart has passed for 1,267 yards with 13 touchdowns and four interceptions. Carl Blanton Jr. leads the team with 27 receptions for 551 yards and seven touchdowns.
St. Marys (8-2) at Franklin (9-1)
St. Marys faces a somewhat familiar foe when the travel Roughriders to take on Franklin. The Roughriders beat Franklin 55-31 in the playoffs in 2016.
The Roughriders enter the D-III game with a seven-game winning streak. After losses in weeks 2 and 3 to playoff bound Wapakoneta and Ottawa-Glandorf, the ‘Riders have not lost and have outscored the opposition 271–90. In the last three games, the Roughriders have surrendered 19 total points.
Franklin also comes into the game with a seven-game winning streak.
The Wildcats are averaging 31.7 points a contest and giving up 14.4 points a game.
Franklin quarterback Braden Woods has passed for 1,421 yards with 16 touchdowns and two interceptions. Woods is also the team’s leading rusher with 554 yards and six touchdowns.