By Adam Knorr
For both, it’s an opportunity to take another step toward the playoffs.
It’s the first of two straight tough challenges for the Eagles. A week from Friday, Oakridge will go head-to-head with the currently undefeated Montague Wildcats in a game that will have major bearing on the conference title.
But Oakridge head coach Cary Harger isn’t worried about his team’s level of focus this week, even with the Montague game just around the corner.
“Our team has been really handling this year well in terms of not looking ahead,” Harger said. “We all know the schedule, but they know what’s important this week is for us to focus on our goals against Mason County Central.”
Those goals will include slowing down MCC quarterback Spencer Knizacky, a dual-threat athlete dangerous on the ground and in the air. In last week’s 39-6 win over Manistee, Knizacky tossed three touchdown passes, and helped the Spartans total 400 yards on the ground.
But the Oakridge defense has dealt with dual threat quarterbacks before, including last Friday when they managed to hold Whitehall’s talented Zarren Aylor in check. The Eagles limited Aylor and the high flying Viking offense to just seven points.
“Going into those games (with dual-threat quarterbacks), we’re always nervous about it. Every person is a little bit nervous with how we handle those things,” Harger said. “We felt our defense had a very good game last Friday and we’re hoping that rolls into this week.”
Ryan Mount and Dylan Hearns will aid Knizacky as receivers in the Spartan passing game, while Cody Soberalski and Austin Tyndall will shoulder some of the rushing duties for MCC.
Both Harger and MCC head coach Scott Briggs stressed the importance of playing physical, and expect Friday’s tilt to be a bitter battle in the trenches.
The Eagles have been led by Kolin Chahorski in the rushing game, who, behind his strong offensive line, has racked up 506 yards on 77 carries.
Even if the Spartans shut down the Eagle rushing attack, however, there’s more to be worried about through the air.
Oakridge quarterback Brady Luttrull has completed 109 of 166 passes for 1,751 yards, 22 touchdowns and just five interceptions this season. Luttrull’s two favorite receivers – Jaeger Beattie and James Cooper III – have been nightmares for opposing defensive backs all year.
Beattie has 31 catches for 477 yards, while Cooper III has been the main red zone threat, hauling in 11 touchdown catches and 624 total yards.
“Our secondary is going to have to play really well and cover their receivers and take away some of the passing lanes and get some pressure on the quarterback,” Briggs said. “It’s going to take a great effort from the whole defense.”
MCC knows it has a strong opponent looming on Friday night, but it’s a motivator rather than an intimidator for the Spartans.
“We’re taking it as a challenge,” Briggs said. “It’s an opportunity. The kids are coming off a high note the last two weeks and the confidence is building and that’s going to help.”