SPRINGHILL – The North Webster Knights, defending champions of district 1-3A, enter Friday’s game with the Loyola Flyers as the underdog.
It’s an unfamiliar role in district play for the Knights and head coach John Ware, but one they’ve embraced as they ready themselves for a physical bout of trench warfare.
Ware has the utmost respect for the unbeaten Flyers (6-0, 1-0) and isn’t sure there’s an area where Loyola’s armor is weak.
“They do everything right,” Ware said. “They are very well-coached, very disciplined. Everything they do in all three phases, they do very well. I’m very impressed.”
Ware said Loyola isn’t the scariest looking team in terms of size and speed, but there uncanny ability to execute and come up with turnovers and big plays is something to beware.
“They’re a true team,” Ware said. “It’s going to be a huge test for us this week.”
The two teams each employ a physical brand of football that puts an emphasis on controlling the clock and wearing down opponents up front.
Ware says while the philosophy is the same, the X’s and O’s are a bit different.
“You pound the football and when you get an opening in the passing game you go for a big one,” Ware said.
North Webster’s defense has been tough against the run most of this season and throughout Ware’s tenure, and they’ll need that trend to continue for any hope of an upset.
“They’ve switched to a zone blocking scheme out of the spread. Their running back (Ethan Stansell) is like 6-foot-3, 245-pounds. Most of the time you have to stop those guys before they get started. We have to diagnose the plays early and get him going sideways instead of north and south.”
The Flyers’ defense has been equally impressive on the season. Loyola shutout Green Oaks last week in a 43-0 demolition of the Giants, but North Webster’s offense has been picking up steam in recent weeks with RB duo TJ Hawthorne and Jaylen Thomas.
Ware said the Knights can’t afford the offensive miscues that plagued them through the season’s first four games.
“They are just sound defensively,” Ware said. “They key right, they get off blocks, if you go inside they follow you; they have 9 starting seniors on defense. When you’re able to be undefeated at this points in the season, you’re doing a lot of things right.”
“If our guys can execute and still have the will to win in the fourth quarter I feel good about our chances. I feel like whoever doesn’t get tired of getting hit in the mouth will win.”