At the intersection of writing and life with the author of the Cameron Ballack mysteries

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Wildcat Lair (2016: Vol. 11)

No official picks this week, Wildcat Universe. This is a clarion call of the highest measure. The Snarling Ones are playing spoiler this year for a change, and all the events go down on the Senior Day/Carnival/Ladue Road Classic game this coming Saturday, as the Rams make the short bus ride from just east of Lindbergh to the friendly confines of Town & Country (#HeyNeighborsNoLightsNoProblem) for the thirteenth playing of the Ram-Cat Derby. Locked in at six wins apiece, both squads have more to play for than Libertarian presidential contender Gary Johnson and, unlike Johnson, one team will see their stock rise significantly after this weekend. (#WhyTwoPartySystem)

Both teams are coming off needed wins. MICDS broke the stranglehold of John Burroughs' home field win streak, ending it at 35 games with the abruptness of a Bill Belichick press conference (#HesNotADoctor).
The 26-24 win established two things. First, MICDS can make the most dangerous weapons, like the ballistic missiles of Tyler Foote and Jake Bain, look as ordinary as the screenplay of The Davinci Code. Secondly, the Rams de facto clinched at least a tie for the Metro League title, a championship the Wildcats earned for Westminster last year by bottling up Bain and Foote pretty well themselves. So MICDS comes in on a four-game win streak and full of confidence, while the Wildcats are swiping and clawing their way through injuries to yield brightly burning character. Westminster's 20-6 win over Priory last week posed many items for the grist mill. Significantly, we learned L.B. Battle can both spell Steve Webb at running back AND get stronger as the game goes on. Refusing to go down like David Cameron's poll numbers after Brexit (#DaddyWants), Battle drove his legs hard enough to get three to four yards more after first contact. With Webb on the mend and ideally in the lineup for Saturday, the Wildcat running game has to be at an encouraging spot for head coach Chris Pederson. Dyllan Conway is six catches away from the school receptions record and one TD snag away from a career touchdown catch mark in that category. Despite the giftedness and talent of the elusive Dyll-Pickle, quarterback Josh Pottebaum must still look to find other receivers like Grant Lavalle, Logan Sells, and Atlin Hall to keep the Ram secondary on their heels. If Jo-Potty can string together a myriad of consistent deliveries, he could have the Ram defense as bewildered as Jose Mourinho after a spanking by Liverpool.
But speaking of defense, this Saturday's game could be the stoutest challenge yet for the young Wildcats, not because of the smattering of stars on the MICDS offense, but due to the lack of them for the sake of teamwork. Not since Joseph II of Austria have we seen a propensity for spreading around the glory (#EnlightenedMonarch). Six different MICDS players have at least double-digit rushing attempts for the season, and three have at least 129 yards apiece, led by Preston Buchanan's 173. Graham Bundy, Jr., has completed only 46 percent of his 67 throws, but his 633 total passing yards yield over 20 yards per completion! And although MICDS averages only a little over 200 yards a game (nearly evenly split between rush and pass), they are absolutely deadly when given opportunity. The Three Musketeers of Keiondre Jordan, Ryan Thompson, and Alexander Feldman account for 23 catches for 521 yards and 7 TDs. More than anything, the evenness of the individuals stat sheets is what grabs your attention when looking at the MICDS Rams, and they'll look for the #SuccessByCommittee slogan to come true one more time.

So to sum up and end it and not drone on like William Henry Harrison's inaugural address (#ThirtyDayPrez), here are the keys to the game:

(1) Rise above the negatives: MICDS is facing a four-year losing streak to Westminster by an average margin of 19 points per contest. It is true the margin of victory has shrunk from 34 to 20 to 14 to 8, but the Rams know there is a monkey on their back (#WhatDoesThatMeanAnyway), and if they're going into Peter Gabriel mode to shock the monkey, it will take a keen effort to avoid memories of seasons past. No doubt that's a sermon coach Matt Buha will preach this week in practice to the front-running herd of Rams with the fervor of Joel Osteen on amphetamines. For the Wildcats' part, they have just broken a four-game losing streak of their own in the midst of this campaign. The young Cats must put paws up and claws out all over again and be prepared for a more difficult task than last week. Neither team can afford to put their heads down in distress like a wildebeest and allow the savage lion of negativity to tear them limb from limb. The team that keeps its collective head up the most wins this game. (#DoNotBeAWildebeest)

(2) First down fortitude: For each defense, the success at stunting the opposition's drives will be a direct result of how well they limit yardage on first down. Can the triad of Fred Maune, Jayson Love, and Keiondre Jordan force the Wildcats into second- and third-and-longs? Will it be Cooper Moore, Steve Webb, and company stunting the Rams and preventing their "Hear the Crash, See the Flash" style from stretching the field? What happens on first down will pay dividends for the remainder of each offensive series. And that comes down to discipline, containment, and making reads.

(3) Location, location, location: No doubt, compared to all the other games so far this year...this one is the game where field position will be at a premium. Outside of opening day, Westminster has not been in shootout mode, and MICDS has neither scored more than 28 points nor given up more than 24 in any single contest (#Consistency). All of which means that ball control AND WHERE you are controlling said pigskin is of prime importance. In a game that figures to be a grinder, what end of the field gets used most will most likely tip the balance in favor of the winner.

It's the Carnival matchup of dreams, fans. MICDS vs. Westminster in the thirteenth edition of the Ram-Cat Derby. We'll see you for kickoff at 2 pm this Saturday with a huge crowd. 

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