Archbold won by a 41-7 margin in their regular season meeting with Liberty Center at home on Sept. 17, a victory that would ultimately secure them the Northwest Ohio Athletic League title outright as it was the Tigers only league blemish. But the Blue Streaks and Coach David Dominique are well aware of what the Tigers have done since then, reeling off seven straight wins ahead of this Saturday’s Division VI, Region 22 semifinal matchup.
That run included knocking off previously unbeaten and the third ranked team in Division VI, Columbus Grove by a 21-13 margin this past Saturday.
“Liberty Center has improved on both sides of the ball since we last met,” said Dominique. “You can definitely tell they are playing with more confidence and they are playing very well. The biggest thing I have seen is how much their O (offensive) and D (defensive) lines have improved. They are playing very physical and have controlled the line of scrimmage.”
The Archbold defense will be charged with containing LC’s potent ground attack. They have three runners that in total have amassed over 2,530 yards.
Leading the way for the Tigers is running back Matthew Orr with 999 yards and 18 touchdowns. He averages over five and a half yards per carry.
Next is tailback Teejay Moore with 916 yards and 12 TDs, along with averaging over seven yards per attempt.
Quarterback Zane Zeiter has accrued 619 yards and 5 scores and has roughly the same yards per carry as Orr. Through the air, Zeiter has completed 55.6 percent (65-117) of his passes for 891 yards, nine TDs to six interceptions.
“They have a number of good offensive threats across the board so if you try to take away one it seems like they always have someone else to go to,” said Dominique of the task for his defense Saturday. “The biggest thing for us is limiting their big play ability. They use a lot of different formations so we must get aligned properly and make plays when we have the chance.”
However, given the evidence of the season to this point, the Blue Streak defense should be ready for the challenge.
It is a group that has not allowed more than 15 points in a game this season. The Streaks have pitched three shutouts on the season and in their last eight games, they’ve allowed only seven points five times, three once, and had two shutouts.
They are led by linebacker Gabe Chapa with 88 total tackles, linebacker Cayden Alvarado with 78, defensive back Jack Hurst 69 and defensive end Devon Morris 55.
LC is led on defense by linebacker Owen Johnson with 88 total tackles, an interception, and two forced fumbles on the season. Next is Orr, also a linebacker, with 53 tackles, an interception that went for a TD, plus a fumble recovery. Linebacker Trenton Kruse has 50 total tackles, an interception returned for a TD, and a forced fumble for the Tigers.
In the back end of the defense, defensive back Owen Long has 44 total tackles and three interceptions — two of which he took back for a score.
The Tigers will be charged with stopping Archbold’s do-it-all quarterback DJ Newman and an offense that is averaging over 41 points per game through 12 contests.
“Liberty Center has a solid defense across the board. They play aggressively and get a number of people to the ball carrier on each play. We are going to need to do a better job finishing blocks in order to find success against them,” explained Dominique.
As mentioned, Newman is the number one threat for the Streaks. He leads the team in rushing with 1,264 yards and 20 TDs, and averages 105 yards per game. Newman is also completing over 70 percent (136-192) of his passes for 1,894 yards, 25 TDs to only 5 interceptions.
Archbold has another 1,000 yard rusher in junior Carson Dominique. He has tallied 1,172 yards and 16 TDs through 12 games. Dominique is averaging almost 98 (97.7) yards per game.
The Streaks’ top threat in the passing game is senior receiver Gavin Bailey. He has 42 catches on the season, 734 yards and 11 TDs.
Next is junior Karter Behnfeldt with 35 receptions, 470 yards and 5 scores.
Although they defeated Liberty Center by 34 points the first time around, Coach Dominique knows that with so much at stake this is likely to be a much different ball game.
And, as he said after his team’s win over Collins Western Reserve Saturday, “it’s tough to beat a team once let alone twice.”
To get the win, his team will have to capitalize on all of its opportunities.
“Offensively, we are going to need to make the most of each possession. When we get the ball in the red zone we must finish with points every time. Defensively, we are going to need to get their offense into tough situations and force them out of their comfort zone. They do a good job of sustaining drives so we must get off the field when we have the chance,” Coach Dominique said.
Archbold and Liberty Center will square off this Saturday at 7 p.m. at Defiance High School’s Fred Brown Stadium.
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010.