By Lisa Byers
November 9, 2012 7:00 a.m. MEADVILLE —
Not even a month ago, the Conneaut football program thought the postseason wasn’t even an option.
“We didn’t think we were going to be involved in anything,” Conneaut head coach Pat Gould said. “We didn’t think we had a chance these two years. Fortunately we got that opportunity.”
That opportunity comes tonight at 7 p.m. at Corry High School when Conneaut takes on Warren in the quarterfinals of the District 10 Class AAA playoffs.
“It’s the right move for the program,” Gould said. “We’re excited. The kids have had a good week. We have some freshmen who have been to playoff games, but a lot of these kids have never been a part of one. So we’re looking forward to it.”
Warren will be a big test for the Eagles.
The Dragons, the third place team out of Region 5, enter the game at 8-2 and feature a high-power offense led by quarterback Austin Jerman.
Jerman has completed 120 of 196 passes for 1,694 yards with 24 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
“We like to take what our opponent gives us,” Warren head coach Brad Wright said about his offensive strategy. “We try to exploit what weakness we see in the defense as the game goes along.
A key ingredient for Wright’s team is to make this game as normal as the rest of the season.
“We don’t like to get them out of their routine,” Wright said. “We tried to prepare for this like any other game. We treat every game like it is a big game.”
Warren is averaging 176.8 yards passing and 226.8 yards rushing per game and is scoring an average of 44.1 points per outing.
“They pass the ball extremely well,” Gould said. “Their quarterback does a fantastic job reading defenses and putting the ball on the money. And he has three or four good receivers. Plus he’s a major threat as a runner.”
Jerman also has 726 yards rushing and six touchdowns on 103 carries.
Gould said the Dragons are unlike any team the Eagles, who play in Region 1, have competed against this season.
“We don’t see anyone who throws the ball that much,” he said. “We’ve been just throwing it at them and getting them as many reps as we can at practice. We’re really showing them a lot of different looks, trying to duplicate what (Warren does).
“But that’s difficult to do with the JV group.”
So the key for the Eagles will be taking care of business when the ball is in their possession and limiting the big play on defense.
“We have to play our game and play some solid defense,” Gould said. “They are going to catch some passes. We know that. We just can’t give up the deep ball or the easy touchdown.”
Conneaut won its only matchup against a Class AAA foe last week with a 26-20 victory over Meadville. The Eagles (6-4) were led by freshman Hunter Merritt and sophomore Elijah Anderton, who each ran for more than 100 yards in the win.
“That Meadville game really had some intensity,” Gould said, “and it helped set this up. It gave them a feeling that you have to play well. That was a big start for us and hopefully we can keep building off it.”