PDT Sports Editor
Wheelersburg takes its unbeaten record and No. 1 ranking in the AP Division V poll on the road Friday as the Pirates visit Northwest in the SOC II opener for both schools.
Wheelersburg coach Rob Woodward isn’t concerned about rankings or records as he prepared his Pirates for the Mohawks.
“Its been a big preaching point of ours to talk about the next game,” Woodward said. “Each week, we focus on the next game, the next task at hand. We don’t look ahead and to be honest, we don’t look back.”
A major reason for Wheelersburg’s 5-0 start, which include three road victories, is an offensive unit that has scored 39 or more points in every contest.
“Our offensive coaching staff has done a nice job of adjusting to what teams are doing against us,” Woodward said. “They have done a good job of communicating with our athletes who have done a good job of executing the set plays. We’ve been able to put together some drives at times and some big scoring plays at times.”
Northwest coach Brooks Fry has a level of respect for the Pirates attack.
“I think the thing that goes unnoticed is they run the ball pretty well,” Fry said. “If you just try to drop a bunch of people into coverage, they can run the ball on you. Up front, on their offensive line, they are a little underrated as well.”
The Mohawks come into the contest with a 3-2 record after beating Green 61-34 to eclipse the .500 mark midway through the season.
“I thought last week we got back to basics, doing things that we are good at doing,” Fry said. “We didn’t try to do anything fancy, just lined up and ran the ball.”
Senior Gabe Burton led Northwest in rushing against the Bobcats with 225 yards on the ground. Another senior, although this is his first season playing high school football, Ben Lajoye rushed for 175 yards against Green.
“(Ben) has been a nice surprise,” Fry said. “We were pretty excited when he came out because he is pretty athletic.
“He has good speed and gives us a change of pace. We like to run between the tackles but when we do that, it’s nice to be able to comeback with some counters and things like that, he does a good job of hitting those for us.”
The matchup to watch for Friday will be the athleticism of Wheelersburg against the strength of the Mohawks.
“Looking at Wheelersburg, obviously they are a little more athletic than we are,” Fry said. “We have to just focus on trying to run our stuff and grind the clock, and move the chains.”
The game plan by Northwest is no secret to Woodward.
“They are very strong and physical,” Woodward said. “They’ve got nice size, they really focus on trying to control the ball and to maintain possession of the ball as much as possible.
“Offensively, they use their size and muscle to work the ball down the field. We are going to have to account for their size and try to get some more guys down in the box.”
On the injury front, the Mohawks are at 100 percent. The Pirates will get Sam Robinson back, a two-year starter prior to this season, for the first time this season. Robinson will play a variety of positions including wide receiver, linebacker and even in the secondary. He started the previous season at center.
Woodward believes Wheelersburg must maintain possession of the ball, work to gang tackle and execute in all three phases of the game to be successful.
Fry wants Northwest to be physical and when the line of scrimmage, take care of the football and limit big plays.
Chris Slone can be reached at 353-3101, ext 298, or firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking sports news, follow Chris on Twitter @crslone.