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The parade downtown for the Ottawa and Marquette football teams is over.
Now the Pirates are ready to get the Class 6A opening round against Normal Community underway at 2 p.m. today at King Field.
“I think everything that has gone on this week has been pretty exciting for the kids and something they’ll always remember,” Pirate coach Trent Swords said. “Now the guys are pretty excited to be playing Normal.”
This is not the first time the Ironmen (6-3) and Pirates (9-0) have met in the playoffs.
In 2007, the two met in Ottawa with Normal taking the second-round matchup 35-12.
The Ironmen, who are in the postseason for the 17th consecutive season, feature an offense that likes to run the ball, which has been something the Pirates defense has defended well.
“I told the kids we are not playing history and 17 years in a row of playoffs,” Swords said. “We are playing this year’s team.”
This year’s team features some good size that the Pirates have not seen in 2012. Normal’s top lineman s 6-foot-7, 290-pound Division 1 recruit Randy Heidman.
“Normal likes to double team defensive lineman,” senior Tyler Skolek said. “That’s alright because it frees up the linebackers and we got some good linebackers on defense.”
Running behind the big offensive line is freshman Alec Bozarth and junior D.J Frank, who have had success the past four games, which were against teams with a combined 8-28 record.
Normal, which does not pass the ball much, has played two quarterbacks frequently throughout the year, but, according to Swords, the Ironman seemed to have favored junior Collin Olson lately.
It’s no secret what the Pirates will be looking to do offensively — run the ball — but the Pirates hope to eliminate the turnovers they had in the final three regular season games.
“If we want to win, we can’t afford to fumble and turn the ball over like we have done lately,” running back Michael Hermosillo said. “We have to play mistake-free football to win the game.”
Hermosillo has rushed for 1,593 yards this season — setting a single-season record — but has gotten a lot of help from his teammates.
J.D Bryant and Alex Hartman have taken advantage of teams gearing up on their friend and teammate as they have gone over the 100-yard mark twice in the past three weeks.
Quarterback Will Hoffman has not had to pass a lot this season but has been effective when asked to put the ball in the air.
“We are going to pass a bit early on,” Swords said. “We want to be effective doing it early so we don’t get into obvious passing downs. We’ll also use play-action pass. We have been good at that this year and we’re confident Will (Hoffman) will get the job done when called upon.”