By CHUCK RIDENOUR
Daily Globe Sports Editor
The last time two undefeated and state-ranked football teams squared off along the banks of the Black Fork, Erik Will was a player on that Shelby team back in 1998.
During week No. 10 that year the Whippets entertained Tiffin Columbian. Both schools came into the game with 9-0 records. SHS was ranked tenth in Division III and the Tornadoes were rated third in Division II.
SHS went on to win that battle before 6,000 fans by a 28-0 score.
Fast forward to Friday night and Will will be on the sidelines, this time as the head coach of Shelby in their 7 p.m. Northern Ohio League showdown with Sandusky at William J. Wilkins Stadium at W.W. Skiles Field.
“It’s 4-0 vs. 4-0... two state-ranked teams... the top two teams in their region in playoff computer points. It’s a huge game,” said Will.
“I told the kids the only stat that matters is being 2-0 in the league. That really is the only stat we care about,” added Will. Both won their conference openers a week ago as the Whippets bested Norwalk 29-15 while the Blue Streaks mauled Willard 64-12.
“Everything else will take care of itself. Polls have never won a game... regional points have never won a game. Those things are a direct result of guys getting better each and every week through practice and chasing a league title. That’s what we’re after,” said the SHS coach.
Shelby is seeking to end a championship drought in football that dates back to 2000 when the Whippets were tri-champions with Bellevue and Tiffin Columbian.
Sandusky, which has won the last five meetings between the two schools and leads the all-time series with a 6-4 mark, was a 41-28 winner last fall.
Will describes the Blue Streaks as being “extremely athletic.”
Sandusky has scored 104 points in its last two outings and is scoring at a 40.5 clip. Defensively, they are allowing an NOL-fewest 12.3 points.
The Blue Streaks are quarterbacked by Javez Alexander. He’s completed 33-of-58 passes for 614 yards and seven touchdowns. The signal caller is a dual threat as he has logged 376 yards on 51 rushing attempts.
Running back Eian Sherman anchors the Sandusky ground attack with a gaudy 15.4 yards per carry average with 25 totes for 386 yards.
Leading pass catchers for the Blue Streaks are Cavon Croom (15 catches, 236 yards), Keith Williams (7, 177) and Nathan Delk (8, 154).
“They have a really nice-looking quarterback and their running back is solid. They’re smaller than what they have been up front, but they’re still really aggressive,” said Will.
The defense is anchored by Ja’mez Young with 26 tackles and Koree Hodgkinson with 23 stops. Delk leads the NOL with three interceptions.
“Defensively, they’re not as blitz happy this year. They’re better this year because they’re reading and reacting. Their kids have really bought into playing a little more disciplined brand of defense,” noted Will.
On offense, Shelby counters with the top ground gainer in the NOL in Devon ‘Shorty’ Brooks who has amassed 709 yards on 80 attempts.
Quarterback Brennan Armstrong has hit 37-of-64 passes for 487 yards. Like Alexander, he’s a threat to run with 385 yards on 59 tries.
Leading receiver is Carter Brooks with 18 receptions for 251 yards.
Spearheading the Hungry Hounds defense is Derek Rose with a NOL-leading 6.5 sacks and he tops the team with 35 tackles. Carter Brooks and Ty Hoffman are next with 32 stops apiece.
Because of a rash of missed tackles and assignments in the game against Norwalk, Will admitted that effort left a sour taste in his mouth. This week he feels his club is responding to the challenge.
“We’ve had our best week of practice. Our kids are really focused and understand the task at hand. The effort’s always been there, now we have the focus back. Our kids understand the ramification of Friday night,” said Will.
Since a season-opening win at home against Madison, the Whippets have played on the road for three straight weeks.
“These guys are really, really excited to get back home and play in front of the home crowd. More importantly, they’re looking forward to playing a top-notch conference opponent,” said Will.
When asked what it will take to come out on top, Will said “we don’t need to be superhuman. We need to line up right and tackle on defense. Offensively, we have to win with the five guys up front. We have to make sure we’re efficient in the passing game and we need to make sure we catch balls and protect. We can’t get behind with penalties or turn the ball over.”
The athletic department is sponsoring Pat Jeffrey Appreciation Night. The long-time ticket seller at Shelby is currently battling cancer. She and her husband, Don, are long-time fixtures at home events helping the athletic department.
A fundraiser will be held to help the family offset medical costs. A “dash for cash” will take place during the warmup prior to the start of the third quarter with cheerleaders canvassing the stands with buckets seeking donations.
Fans who want to avoid standing in line for tickets to Friday’s game may purchase tickets at a pre sale this week during office hours at the high school.
Tickets are $4 for students and $6 for adults. Also, reserved seats priced at $7 are available.
AROUND THE NOL
In other league action this week: Tiffin Columbian (1-3, 0-1) travels to Bellevue (3-1, 0-0) and Ontario (2-2, 1-0) is at Norwalk (2-2, 0-1). In a non-league affair, Willard (1-3) goes to Port Clinton (4-0).Murder Victim A New London HS Graduate