Something has got to give in the game between the Chillicothe Huntington Huntsmen (0-2) and the Northwest Mohawks (0-2) on Friday night. Both teams enter the game seeking their first win of the season.
For Northwest, the season hasn’t gotten off the way head coach Doug Montavon might have hoped for, but the second-year head coach has seen some major improvement from his Mohawks compared to where they were at this time last season.
“Compared to last year, there’s no doubt that it’s coming to them a lot easier,” Montavon said about his schemes on offense and defense.
Northwest has averaged just six points per game through the first two games of the season, but Montavon has noticed strides within the offense.
The offensive line is a crucial component for Montavon’s system, which employs a lot of I-formation. Montavon’s boys up front play a big role in the success or failure of his play calls, and the team has spent a lot of time leading up to the game with the Huntsmen on getting back to the basics.
“We’re still working on the proper footwork that gives you the best angle to get to the guy that you’re blocking and then get to the linebackers,” Montavon said. “Every week they get better at that, and at some point it’s going to click and make a whole lot more sense to them and things are hopefully going to go a lot better for us when that happens.”
Montavon and his staff are hoping that this is the week that things start to click for them. Northwest has challenged themselves with a difficult schedule early on in hopes that it will prepare them come time to start conference play.
Northwest’s first two games against the SVC’s Chillicothe Southeastern Panthers and the OVC’s Rock Hill Redmen might have been losses for the Mohawks, but they could pay off as the season goes on.
“It’s nice starting out the season and the first half in your out of conference games playing good opponents,” Montavon said. “I always liked the strategy of playing against people that are going to make you better, and we’ve definitely played teams so far that are going to make us better as a football team.”
The challenges have certainly been there for the Mohawks early on, but the start to the season isn’t getting to anyone wearing a Northwest jersey on Friday nights.
“This is a really great group of kids that we have on the team,” Montavon said. “They come to practice, they put in the work. They’re disappointed in the way the first two games have gone, but they’re by no means giving up.”
Montavon added that “they understand that the season is ten games long, and the second half of the season is the part that gets you the golden football.”
For the Mohawks, things don’t get any easier in the third game of the season. Although the Huntsmen are 0-2 as well, they have shown they have a good offense and their defense has kept them in the first two games.
On offense for Chillicothe Huntington, the Huntsmen are led by junior quarterback Elijah McCloskey, who is the definition of a dual-threat quarterback. McCloskey scored a 90-yard touchdown on the ground in Chillicothe Huntington’s season opener against Berne Union.
“Huntington Ross has a very athletic quarterback,” Montavon said on McCloskey. “He’s got a great arm and he reads defenses well. He might be the best all-around football player we’ve faced this season.”
McCloskey has garnered a lot of attention in the preseason, as the signal-caller is considered by some to potentially be a candidate for Player of the Year honors in the SVC. Certainly, Northwest’s defense will need to keep their eyes on him if they hope to win the game, especially since the Mohawks have allowed an average of 41.5 points in their first two games of the year.
Montavon knows what McCloskey is capable of, and hopes his defense is able to hold their own against the Huntsmen quarterback.
“Defensively, we’ve got to contain the quarterback with our defensive ends,” Montavon said. “We’ve got to put pressure on the quarterback with our defensive tackles Hobby and Andrew Howard.”
The return of Timmy Emmons to the Northwest lineup is something that Montavon expects to have a big impact on his defense.
“That’s going to help us in the defensive backfield, he’s one of our better defensive backs,” Montavon said. “Especially when it comes to stepping up and making a tackle.”
Northwest will need their defense to be locked in and focused on containing the quarterback and making tackles. The Huntsmen run a multitude of formations, so Montavon says his team has been “preparing for a little bit of everything” in practice this week.
When the Mohawks have the ball, it will be much of the same out of Chillicothe Huntington. Montavon said the Huntsmen have showed the tendency to run multiple fronts on the defensive line, including even using some goal line type defensive formations in the middle of the field.
The battle in the trenches figures to be a factor in this game, particularly for Northwest. Montavon believes his team has the size advantage over Chillicothe Huntington, and hopes to exploit that mismatch when the Mohawks have the ball.
“They’re just going to have to run hard,” Montavon said about his offense. “It looks like we may have the size advantage on this team, so we’ve definitely got to come out and be physical.”
In order for Northwest to avenge last year’s 57-13 loss to the Huntsmen, Montavon says the game will “come down to holding our blocks and running hard” on offense. On the defensive side of the ball, Montavon said his team needs to concern themselves with “taking care of our responsibilities and tackling in space.”
Chillicothe Huntington will visit McDermott on Friday. Kickoff will be at 7 p.m.