FALL RIVER – Chandler Firary knows how good the guys across the line of scrimmage will be when his Fall River prep football team takes on Black Hawk Friday night in Middleton.
He knows they’re undefeated.
He knows they were ranked fifth among all teams in the small schools division (enrollments under 300, which encompasses all of the D6 and D7 postseason field and half of the D5 field) of the final Associated Press state poll of the season four weeks ago.
And he knows they’re outscoring opponents by an average score of 50.9 to 8.3.
As far as Firary is concerned, though, going up against such a formidable opponent in the Division 7 state semifinals is the best possible scenario.
That’s because, win or lose he knows the Warriors are going to push his team to its full potential.
“Iron sharpens iron,” the senior offensive and defensive lineman said. “We’re excited to be this far in the playoffs and be in a game of this magnitude.
“It’s a big challenge for us that we have to rise up and answer,” he added. “We’re ready to get to Friday, and we want to go.”
Fall River is no slouch itself, having just knocked off Wild Rose – the seventh-ranked small schools team in the AP’s final poll and a team that defeated the Pirates, 27-12, in Week 2.
Like the Warriors, the Pirates’ defense has been stout, allowing only 12.8 points per game.
But the Pirates’ offense hasn’t been quite as dominant, averaging a more modest 29.4 points per contest compared with the 50.9 averaged by Black Hawk.
The fuel powering the Warriors’ high-powered offense – which ranked third in the state across all divisions in scoring during the regular season – is the ground game, led by 6-foot, 215-pound senior running back Brody Milz (1,498 yards and 25 touchdowns on 9.9 yards per carry) and 5-10, 170-pound junior running back Colby Argall (1,293 yards and 23 touchdowns on 10.0 yards per carry).
Needless to say, those two will be Fall River’s primary focus Friday night.
But the Pirates aren’t looking to pitch a shutout; they’re just looking to make enough stops to give the offense a chance to win the game.
“Our key is to contain them – you can’t really shut down a ground game like that,” Pirates’ head coach Joe Zander said. “I think if we can contain them and then create turnovers, I think the game’s going to go in our favor.”
To that end, Zander said his defense will stuff eight or nine guys in the box on almost every play, meaning one thing to watch will be whether Fall River’s defensive backs bite on any play action fakes.
Offensively, Zander said play-calling will depend largely on what kind of things Black Hawk does defensively and how well quarterback Luke Figol does making his veer-option reads against the Warriors’ scheme.
“And we’ve got to make adjustments when we need to,” Zander added.
The Pirates ended the regular season ranked 10th in the small schools division of the AP poll, so they’re not overwhelming underdogs.
But they’re underdogs nonetheless.
They don’t mind that role.
“Our kids seem to sometimes play to (the level of whomever) they’re playing against,” Zander said. “I don’t want to say they take it easy against the teams they know they can beat, but it seems like they get up (more) for the big games.”
Case in point: The Pirates were 2-1 this season in games Zander counted them as underdogs – both times against Wild Rose and in a 15-6 win over Johnson Creek in Week 6.
They’ll try and make it 3-1 Friday, and this much is certain: If they don’t win, it won’t be because they weren’t hungry enough.
“We’re amped – we’re very excited for the game this Friday,” Firary said. “We got to see a little bit of Black Hawk early on in the season because they came down to our scrimmage, and we saw how good of a team they are.
“We decided right then and there that we wanted to play them (in the playoffs).”
“We didn’t come this far to lose one game before state,” junior offensive and defensive lineman Keegan Wodill added. “We were the underdogs last week, and we proved them wrong.
“We knew we had it in us.”