On offense: Western is somewhat balanced, with 504 rushing yards and 382 passing yards so far this season. Quarterback Nate Sobania is rock solid whenever he doesn’t try to do too much and he has completed 60.5 percent of his passes on the year. Austin Maynard is their feature halfback, and he is averaging 7.2 yards per carry and has scored seven touchdowns. He had 151 yards against Erie-Mason in week two, but just 86 yards in the two other games combined.
On defense: Last week was an eye-popping performance against Albion. Sure the Wildcats are far from a top-notch program, but the Panthers limited them to 34 yards of total offense and just six first downs. They have given up just 14 points in three games, a far cry from the 303 they allowed in 2008, when they went 2-7. Eric Hughes leads the team in tackles and the Panthers benefit from a slew of returning starters. They have shut out opponents in 10 of 12 quarters in 2009.
Intangibles: The Panthers have never — that’s right, not even once — made the playoffs, and they are half way there. Maynard is a threat to pop out in open space and become a threat as a receiver once in a while. Really it’s not about who the Panthers have though, it’s about how hungry they are for success after winning a total of six games the last six seasons.
On offense: I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again. The Hornets need to figure out what they want out of a QB, give him the starting job to lose and see how it plays out. Starting halfback Nick Reiniche is still out with a knee injury, and according to the senior, he might come back as a wide receiver in a few weeks. Dan Vear might also line up at wideout, like he did earlier this year, but his real passion lies in playing QB. Some highlights so far this year include the play of senior WR Drew Byers and the game-by-game improvement of the offensive line. It looks like Curby will be starting at QB once again, after a full week of practice finally.
On defense: The Hornets allowed just 10 points and one touchdown last week, a major step forward from allowing 95 points the first two weeks. They are still struggling to fill the gaps on defense though, evident by 195 yards rushing from Stockbridge last week. It is also remarkable to see a defensive back like Sonny McCoy have 18 tackles, which he did last week.
Intangibles: There are plenty of hard-working, determined kids on Lemerand’s team that aren’t going to just roll over an die. One more loss and the playoffs aren’t even an option and it will mark the school’s first-ever two-game losing streak in the SMAA. A lot of players are bruised and less than 100 percent though.
By the numbers:
11-3: The Hornets have won 11 of the 14 meetings between the two schools in the history of the rivalry. The Hornets have also won nine straight against Western.
14: The number of points the Panthers have given up this season, all 14 in a week two route of Erie Mason. Western has two shutouts in the same season for the first time since 1990.
52: Since the turn of the century the Hornets have won 71 games, 52 more than Western who is 19-65 in that span.
For Hillsdale fans and all of the kids who are hoping their sweat equity finally pays off, I wish I could just grant the Hornets a victory. Unfortunately I can’t heal people on the injured reserve and I can’t see inside the minds of Hillsdale coaches, who have done marvelous things for years on end. but can’t seem to get the most out of this team. I think Curby will look better this week, but the Panthers rushing attack willjust be too much for the Hornets too handle, similar to losses against Hudson and Hastings. I think moral victories might be necessary at this point. Another SMAA loss looms.
WESTERN 35, HILLSDALE 21