COAL CITY — For a 21-point victory, the offensive numbers might be considered underwhelming.
Coal City rushed 28 times for 101 yards during its 28-7 regular-season victory over Peotone. That equated to a significantly lower per-carry average (3.8 yards) than the 5.3 yards the Coalers averaged for the season. Coal City did net 126 passing yards on 14 attempts against the Blue Devils, but with just 13 first downs and with nine penalties that cost them 90 yards, the Coalers played an imperfect game against Peotone in Week 7.
They still won comfortably, largely because of a defense that allowed only 70 total points and an average of 187 yards per game. Peotone rushed 46 times but gained just 128 net rushing yards and 152 yards of total offense against the Coalers, who totaled five sacks, an interception and a fumble recovery.
"We had a great week of practice leading up to that game," Coal City defensive tackle Terry Blondin, who had three sacks, said before practice this week. "For me, I practiced hard and was on my game that night."
Coal City coach Lenny Onsen, who runs the defense, says the Blue Devils use an option offense similar to that run by Air Force Academy. Their leading rusher, by a margin of 538 yards, is fullback Danny Beresky, who has 821 yards on 145 carries. Junior quarterback Joe Cowger has added 334 yards through the air and 214 on the ground.
"They use a couple wide receivers and try to do a lot of things. They establish the fullback and then go to their wing backs with some pitches and some tosses. Those wing backs are pretty good runners," Onsen said. "We are pretty fast on defense. That's one of the things we're pretty good at, so we should match up with what they want to do."
Quarterback Brennan Shetina, who completed 52-of-105 passes for 625 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions and rushed 73 times for 274 yards during the regular season, says there are reasons for the Coalers' limited output in the first game against Peotone. He is confident in an attack that features Ryland Tondini (99 rushes, 691 yards, 11 TD), Mark Norton (39 rushes, 245 yards) and Matt Burchfield (19 catches, 192 yards).
"We had some short fields to work with the first time we played," Shetina said. "Our defense, as always, set us up with some great field position. We didn't really have to put together the long drives."
Both teams enter the playoffs riding winning streaks. Peotone's loss to Coal City was its fourth straight and put it on the verge of being eliminated from playoff contention, but the Blue Devils rallied to beat Lisle, 35-12, and Westmont, 23-6, to qualify. The Coalers followed their lone loss of the season, 14-10 to Sandwich in Week 5, with a 7-0 win over Plano and have since won by large margins over Peotone, Westmont and Reed-Custer.
"That wasn't a great team. There's no reason to hide that," Onsen said of Reed-Custer, which the Coalers beat 51-7. "But I really like what we did the last two weeks. We went into those games worrying about what we do and really made some strides."
There will be few secrets Friday night in Coal City between the teams, who had six common opponents during the regular season.
"It's definitely an advantage for us, if anything," Blondin said of the familiarity. "I mean, sure, they know us too, but we beat them once. Maybe there will be a few new things they do to try and confuse us but we'll all be prepared as we can be. We already played them tough. It's the playoffs now. You have to heighten your play."