The Northern Lakes League's top two football teams will collide at 7 p.m. today, and the survivor takes sole possession of first place.
Both Perrysburg (6-1 overall) and Napoleon (6-0-1) take unblemished NLL records (4-0) into the clash at the Wildcats' Buckenmeyer Stadium.
Perrysburg coach Matt Kregel said his players have spent additional time breaking down game film.
“They seem locked in,” he said. “We had a great week of practice. They've done all we've asked. It feels like a championship week.”
The Wildcats are ranked No. 5 in the Division III state poll. Perrysburg is among the other teams receiving votes in the Division II poll.
Napoleon coach Tory Strock said he believes the game will live up to the hype.
“This is my fifth year here, and this is the most buzz I've seen here around town,” Strock said. “It's like nothing I've seen here. This will be a tremendous matchup.”
The Yellow Jackets' only loss came in week three when Central Catholic handled them 35-7. In their six wins, Perrysburg has outscored its foes 228-100.
The Wildcats remain undefeated after their game in week three against Kettering Archbishop Alter was ruled a 0-0 tie after bad weather forced a cancellation. The Wildcats have outscored their opponents 224-92.
Napoleon crushed the Yellow Jackets 34-15 last year.
“Napoleon embarrassed us last year, so we've had this game circled for a while,” Kregel said.
Strock said his players know Perrysburg has revenge on its mind.
“Our kids our hungry and are excited about the challenge,” he said. “There is a lot at stake.”
Kregel said the key for his team on defense is to stop the run and shut down tight end Jordan Lauf (6-5, 191).
“They are a run-oriented offense, and they have three good running backs,” Kregel said. “And they are big up front. They run the ball well inside. But also on the outside they have the Lauf kid who is a D-I college receiver if he wasn't playing basketball.”
Lauf, who leads the team with 15 catches for 383 yards and nine touchdowns, will play basketball at the University of Toledo.
Senior running back Charlie Harris, who returns after missing the last two games due to a disciplinary issue, still leads the team with 517 yards on 38 carries (13.6 yards per tote) and nine scores.
Junior back Bryant Schlade is second on the team with 441 rushing yards and four scores. Senior Max Westhoven has 383 yards and six TDs.
Senior quarterback David Yunker has completed 38 of 62 passes for 643 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Kregel said when Perrysburg has the ball it cannot commit turnovers.
“We also have to keep drives going to keep momentum and keep our defense off the field,” Kregel said.
Defensively, senior linebacker Kyle Durham leads the team in tackles but is followed closely by fellow linebacker Mark Delas and end Kadin Llewellyn.
Kregel said linemen JP Newton and Bennett Westfall lead a solid group up front.
“But the thing that puts us further ahead is our skill in the defensive backfield,” Kregel said.
Austin Lee, Steve Slocum, Matt Mesker, and Seth Durham and Gus Dimmerling all have good speed, he said.
Offensively, Slocum has completed 57 of 108 passes for 880 yards and seven TDs and has 102 carries for 780 rushing yards and 13 scores.
“He is an unbelievable athlete, and it has clicked for him,” Kregel said.
Slocum also handles the kicking duties and has 27 PATs and three field goals. He booted a 63-yarder in practice on Thursday.
“He is totally committed to this team offensively and defensively. He will keep getting better,” Kregel said.
Fullback Delas (6-3, 250) provides a change of pace with his size. Delas has 40 carries for 255 yards and eight touchdowns. Dimmerling is the speed back (224 yards on 64 carries).
Slocum's top targets are Austin Bishop (13 catches, 314 yards), a vertical threat, and Lee (13 catches, 293 yards), the possession receiver.
Napoleon's top two tacklers are senior linebackers Adante Warren (52) and Max Westhoven (50).
“We have got to make them one dimensional when they are on offense,” Strock said. “And when we are on offense, we have to control the line of scrimmage.”
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