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

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Wildcat Lair (2016: Volume 9)

Another week gone by and more laid on the table for improvement. It's clear that the Wildcats are not going to get anything easy this season; every measure of success will be earned...on purpose with no accident. There are no magic fixes of team-building, no quickly devised quirks. Naturally, one would hope for a one-size-fits-all remedy to slay the vicious rabbits on our schedule, but (1) we do not bear a Holy Hand Grenade and (2) the difference has always been negligible for those who do (#MontyPythonAndTheHolyGrail)
The historic and immutable truth--right up there on the certainty meter with the Nicene Creed, Men in Blazers' optimism, and Mick Foley's lacerated kidneys after being pitched off the cage top eighteen years ago... that it's rare we play a quality end-to-end game on John Burroughs' field (#HardcoreMemories). This on top of the injuries and reshuffling we face in the Wildcat den as we march through a difficult Metro League slate. The Bombers' 28-12 victory was a clear indication they had this game marked on their calendars. Tyler Foote's 250 yards passing set the tone and stretched the Wildcat secondary to their limits. On the plus side, the Cats never quit in adverse circumstances, and the timing of their offense continues to improve as they seek to polish off drives more consistently.  One particular bright spot was Steve Webb outrushing Jake Bain for the second consecutive year, which means our smaller offensive line is doing its job, moving toward the moments when we can kick our opponents around on a regular basis (#MeanHorsey).
Turning toward this Friday night's road opponent, one wonders which teams will be showing up. While Westminster looks to assert itself back into the Metro League upper division level, the Lutheran South Lancers want to exorcise the demons of two years ago, when they inexplicably blew a 21-0 third quarter lead in even more reasonable then-coach Chuck Faucette fashion as the Wildcats stormed back for a thrilling 28-21 victory (#HeyLancers1984MiamiHurricanesLostThatWayToo).
The question becomes, will we see the Lutheran South team that has crunched Roosevelt and Priory by a combined 91-6? Or the team that came back to beat Soldan by four? Or the team that fell apart AGAIN versus MICDS to continue a streak of sadness longer than Kentucky had against Tennessee before 2011? Whatever the case, the Lancers will rely fully on last year's Metro League Player of the Year, Cody Schrader. The all-world junior continues to put up eye-popping numbers with the strength of Jerome Bettis and the durability of former NFL quarterback Jeff Hosteler (#NotBackingDown). Schrader has rushed for 823 yards--691 yards more than the second-place Lancer--and 11 touchdowns, while actually throwing three times, completing all three with one TD pass to go with it. In fact, Schrader has touched the ball of three of every seven Lancer offensive snaps. As Schrades goes, so go the Lancers.

Yet there's more to this team than their tailback. Quarterback Vito Orlando has improved greatly since last year in mobility and throwing stats. Presently completing 65 percent of his tosses for 705 yards, Orlando will look for connections to receivers Colton Bates, Derek Scott, and Keshon Spraggins. The trick will be "Can they spread the field and keep Schrader running up the middle as well?" The Wildcat defense faces a stern test, but it's one they passed with flying colors in a 49-14 romp last season at home, when Schrader was held under 100 yards. Limiting Lutheran South's run success and forcing Orlando to throw on third-and-long will give the Cats better odds on taking over the field (#LikeWilliamWallaceAgainstTheEnglish).

On the offensive side for the Wildcats, Josh Pottebaum continues to gain better timing with receivers Dylan Conway, Grant Lavalle, and Logan Sells, and if Steve Webb has an outing this week like he had against Burroughs, Westminster fans will have a lot to cheer for (#DaddyWants). Don't forget also the critical role of special teams and turnovers as well. A short or flipped field can be a source of joy or misery. If we win the turnover battle, it could be a long night for the Lancers.

Which, incidentally, is exactly what we want (#HaveNoMercy).

Kickoff is 7:00 pm Friday, September 16th at Lutheran South's field. As Notre Dame fans would chant, "Onward to Victory!"

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