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10/31/2013 9:36:00 AM Football: River Valley looks to stop run in first playoff game
River Valley (6-3) at Erie-Prophetstown (7-2)
Kickoff: 7 p.m. Friday
Last week’s results: River Valley 18, Ridgewood 2; Erie-Prophetstown 28, Orion 7
RV players to watch: QB/DB Tom Miller (1,009 passing yards, 8 TDs, 823 rushing yards, 10 TDs this season), RB/DL Nathan Helle (861 yards, 7 TDs this season), WR Matt Lewandowski (475 yards, 4 TDs this season).
E-P players to watch: FB Nick Williams (1,796 yards, 22 TDs this season), DE Jack Heflin (4.5 sacks Week 9), QB Ethan Howard (765 rushing yards, 5 TDs rushing this season), RB Chris Bauer (84 yards, 2 TDs Week 9).
The top quadrant of the Class 3A playoff bracket features a night of firsts when the No. 13-seeded River Valley football team locks up with No. 4-seeded Ere-Prophetstown.
Friday’s 7 p.m. game in Erie is the first ever playoff appearance for the Falcons and is the first postseason game held at E-P.
What RV (6-3) has to worry about is the looming unusual circumstance on the field.
Third-year coach Galen Noard’s squad has not faced a fullback-oriented rushing team such as the Panthers in the Lincoln Trail Conference.
“They finished 7-2 in a very good conference (the Three Rivers Conference North Division) playing with the likes of Rockridge and Sterling Newman,” Noard said. “They’re bigger schools than we’re used to playing and they play power football. They have a big fullback. He runs hard and he has a lot of yards this season.
“They rely on that to draw you in and then they will go outside with it. They haven’t thrown because they haven’t had to throw.”
E-P fullback Nick Williams has rushed for 1,796 yards and 22 touchdowns on the season and is the Panthers’ No. 1 offensive threat.
Coach Chuck Milem said his Panther squad also is equipped with a veteran offensive line, including senior right guard Owen McConnell.
River Valley senior linebacker and tight end Evan Koehler has faith in the defensive line’s ability to stop the power ground game and the E-P coaching staff’s game plan.
“Our main goal is to stuff up the middle and make sure nothing gets outside of our gaps — just make sure we don’t let any big plays go and play as perfectly as we can,” Koehler said. “Our main priority this year has been our run defense.
“We’ve got a really big defensive line and our linebackers have always been pretty good at cleaning up anything that they miss. I think we have a pretty solid run defense.”
Milem, whose team finished second in the TRC North behind Newman and is making it second consecutive playoff appearance, is planning on doing the same thing RV wants to do — stop the run.
“They are very talented in the backfield. They seem like they have some experience back there,” Milem said. “I know they have one of their all-time leading rushers back there. We think they’re talented back there and that’s one thing we’ve been trying to prepare for this week.”
Senior Nathan Helle has rushed for 861 yards and seven touchdowns this season for the Falcons, while his backfield running mate Sam Poignant has added 565 yards and six touchdowns.
Senior quarterback Tom Miller adds a triple threat to the ground game with his 823 yards and 10 touchdowns on the year, and is a dual option from his position as he has thrown for more than 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns.
“We try to grind the ball out — long drives, take off seven minutes off the clock. That helps the defense a lot by keeping them off the field so they can regroup,” Miller said. “Their line is a good group of guys — big, fast that might cause some trouble for our (offensive) line — but I think with the different stuff we run, we’ll be fine on offense.”
Brandon LaChance can be reached at 220-6995, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_LaChance.
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