SHERBURN - With the 2012 high school football regular season in the books, coaches now have three short days to prepare for their first round of playoff action.
In Section 3A, the No. 3-seeded Martin County West Mavericks will play host to the No. 6-seeded United South Central Rebels, while the No. 8-seeded Granada-Huntley-East Chain/Truman Jaguars travel to No. 1-seeded Adrian in Tuesday's quarterfinals.
The Mavericks finished the season (4-4), including a last-minute 28-20 loss to the Maple River Eagles on Wednesday night, to secure the home-field advantage for the opening round.
RETURN?TO?PLAYOFFS — Martin County West’s Trevor Schultz returns a kick during regular-season football action in Sherburn. The No. 3-seeded Mavericks will play host to United South Central in the Section 3A playoffs at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Sherburn. Photo by Leanna Becker
RETURN?TO?PLAYOFFS — Granada-Huntley-East Chain/Truman’s Jared Green returns a kick during regular-season gridiron action in Truman. The No. 8-seeded Jaguars travel to No. 1 Adrian for their Section 3A playoff opener on Tuesday. Photo by Leanna Becker
USC finished with a 2-6 record, with its final regular-season game ending in a 20-0 loss to Minnesota Valley Lutheran.
After last season's one-and-done playoff appearance with heartbreaking 28-27 loss to Springfield, the Mavericks are looking to extend their season this year. With the added challenge of a different quarterback, the Mavericks will have fine-tuning to do in three short days.
"(Jake) Faber dislocated his hip in Wednesday's game, so we'll have Austin Krumwiede playing quarterback for us," said Martin County West head coach T.J. Schmidtke. "He has a good arm and hopefully, he'll give us options to run a little more."
The Mavericks have relied on a solid running game from senior Mitch Sitzmann, along with Krumwiede and Faber. The air attack has created some big plays at crucial moments for MCW and the offensive balance is something that they will look to continue, even with a different QB.
"We are going to try and throw as much, if not more, than we already have been," said Schmidtke. "Brandon Poppe is a junior who has two touchdowns this season, and with Krum at quarterback, we'll need him to step up for us."
The focus for the defense also will be on the ground game.
"Tuesday is going to be a tough game for us. They are a physical team whose blocking really helps get their running game going," said Schmidtke. "Their average points are down this season, but if we can't stop the run, it's going to give us problems."
The winner of the MCW-USC game on Tuesday will advance to face the winner of No. 2-seeded St. Clair and No. 7-seeded Southwestern United at 3 p.m. Saturday Oct. 27.
"We don't need to do anything out of the ordinary for us. Defensively, we need to be able to stop the run. Our success depends upon whether or not we can do that. And we need to make whatever team we play pass the ball. We get interceptions and make big plays when that happens," said Schmidtke.
For the No. 8-seeded Jaguars, who finished 3-5, Tuesday brings the opportunity to upset No. 1-seeded Adrian (6-2) on the Dragons' home field in the opening round.
"If I had to try and pick the power in the section, I'd say that Adrian is right there at the top, but everyone else in the section is capable of pulling an upset. This might be the most open I've seen the section in a while," said Granada-Huntley-East Chain/Truman head coach Lee Dallager.
In order for the Jaguars to manage an upset, Dallager's 9-Man squad during the regular season will have to adjust to 11-man strategy and field size, along with preparing for the Dragons' attack.
"It looks like they run a lot of different offensive formations and are a very disciplined team," said Dallager. "They can run or pass the ball pretty well, but given the choice, they seem to like the run. We just need to stay home defensively and cover like we are supposed to."
The Jaguars are coming into the playoffs off a 20-14 win over Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton on Wednesday in Truman, while the Dragons defeated Russell-Tyler-Ruthton 27-8 in their regular season finale.
"We ran the ball well in the second half of the game and we are improving on our play-action. We are going to need that to help set up our running game against Adrian," said Dallager.
With senior Chandler Greier taking the snaps and Dylan Petrowiak as an outside threat, Jared Green and DaMarko Thomas look to balance out the Jaguars' offensive attack.
Meanwhile, Derek Sloneker will have to be a strong defensive presence to keep the Dragons off the board.
"Our two biggest challenges will be the wider field and our depth. We tend to not use the whole field when we switch over in the playoffs, and we need to try and use that to our advantage," said Dallager. "And they are going to be able to substitute in more players. We've got experience, which is in our favor, but not as much depth."
The winner of the Jaguars and Dragons matchup will face either the No. 5-seeded Murray County Central or No. 4-seeded Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial at 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27.