Fresh off their well-earned victory over Coldwater last week, Archbold is targeting a trip to the regional final when they meet Liberty Center in a Division VI, Region 23 semifinal Friday at Napoleon’s Charles Buckenmeyer Stadium.
It will also be a chance for the Blue Streaks (10-1) to avenge their only loss of the season, a 39-36 home defeat at the hands of the Tigers (10-1) back on Oct. 4.
There were a lot of lessons learned from that contest, according to Archbold coach David Dominique.
“Although it is never easy to lose, I think our week 6 loss to Liberty Center helped us to identify weaknesses we needed to improve upon and also gave us extra motivation in order to get a second chance at playing them,” he said. “Thankfully, we were able to get a win last Friday and it puts us in a position for this rematch.”
Fortunately, the regular season stumble did not cost Archbold a league title. The Streaks ran the table in the Northwest Ohio Athletic League to finish the season, and a week eight loss by the Tigers to Bryan enabled them to tie for the league crown.
As per usual, Liberty Center is led by its rushing attack. They have one rusher over 1,200 yards for the season and another that is knocking on the door of 1,000.
Zach Bowers comes into the contest sporting 1,285 yards on the ground and 16 touchdowns. Max Phillips is next at 977 yards and 11 TDs. They also have Karter Kern who boasts 532 yards and seven TDs, including three in the playoff opener versus Allen East.
LC bested the Mustangs 43-12.
The Tiger quarterback, Camden Krugh, has been an efficient passer this season, throwing for 1,498 yards, with 16 TDs to six interceptions. Krugh’s favorite target is tight end Trent Murdock, who comes into the game with 22 catches for a total of 594 yards. Ten of those catches have gone for scores.
The Tigers will look to duplicate their performance from week six, where they outgained the Streaks 466-360 with a 228-132 edge on the ground. Bowers and Phillips each rushed for over 100 yards that night.
“Liberty Center is one of the top offenses in the area because of their ability to mix the run and the pass,” explained Dominique. “They have a number of good running backs that do not go down on first contact so we must improve our tackling from our last matchup and limit their yards after contact. A second thing we need to improve upon is limiting their big play ability. Last game they got behind us on deep passes which really proved to be the difference in the game. We must play disciplined football in order to find success on Friday night.”
Archbold has ripped off five straight wins since that fateful night in early October, scoring 35 points or more in four of the five. They are riding especially high following the ‘upset’ of traditional power Coldwater, in which they won on a 28-yard touchdown pass to Elijah Zimmerman in the closing seconds.
One might think refocusing following a thrilling win like that could be a problem, but Dominique disagrees.
“It is at the point in the season when keeping focus should not be an issue because in order to continue your season you must win,” he said. “Our team has a done a great job of maintaining focus throughout this year and I feel that our schedule has done a good job preparing us for games like this. It seems like every week has been a big game and this week is no different.”
Archbold hopes its offense can continue to roll, and if need be, win a ‘shootout’ over the Tigers. They are led by dual-threat quarterback DJ Newman, leading rusher Noah Gomez, and receivers Antonio Cruz and Zimmerman.
“To me, we must control the line of scrimmage and not turn the ball over,” said Dominique on keys for his offense Friday night. “We had two turnovers against them in week 6 and they did not turn the ball over so winning the turnover battle will be critical. Their defense does a good job of mixing their looks up front and bringing various pressure, so we will need to have a good night up front in order to have any success.”
A word of note, Gomez, who has 798 yards rushing and 11 TDs for the season, was nursing an injury and did not play in the previous matchup. According to Dominique, he was cleared the afternoon of the game but they did not want to play him without taking any contact in practice that week.
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010