Coming off one of the most emotional wins in the three-year tenure of Morris coach Alan Thorson, the Redskins football team will now be playing in its 12th semifinal playoff game ever.
At Washington last Saturday, the locals rallied from down 14 points in the fourth quarter to beat the Panthers by a 28-27 score. Now they will be playing Springfield Sacred Heart Griffin for the first time ever. The game will be played on Redskins Field with kickoff set for 3 p.m.
"Having a semifinal game at home is huge. Sacred Heart is a very good team, but playing here is tough for anybody. We're excited for that," Morris coach Alan Thorson said.
"You have to come in with momentum. You have to come in with fire and wanting to win this game more than anything — like its the only thing you've ever wanted in your life. This is to go to state. It's where we've wanted to get all year. The guys are going to come in with fire and I know they are going to give everything they can. If we do that and play to the best of our ability, this is a pretty tough team to beat."
Morris will be trying for its 10th state berth in school history. Only twice have the Redskins made it this far and not gone on to play in the title tilt. One loss came at home to Woodstock in 1983 (14-3) and the other was at Providence Catholic in 1997 (34-17).
"It's definitely going to be an advantage," Morris senior Collin Grogan said. about playing at home. "There's going to be so many people here it's not even going to be funny. It's going to be crazy. We're going to be the most focused and the wildest we've ever been in a game."
Sacred Heart comes into the game with an 11-1 record, the same as the Redskins. The Cyclones are out of the Central State Eight Conference and their only loss this fall came in Week 6 in a 40-17 loss to out of state Indianapolis Cathedral. Their playoff wins have come against Highland (55-16), Jacksonville (37-36 in OT) and Chatham Glenwood (33-21).
When SHG is on offense
Sacred Heart has scored 501 points on the season for 42 points a game.
The quarterback for the Cyclones is Gabe Green. This year he has completed 120-of-178 passes (67 percent) for 1,622 yards. He has thrown 17 touchdowns and been intercepted three times.
Green's favorite targets this fall have been Mitch Trees (39-408, three TD), Nate Lowis (22-409, three TD) and Eric Brydl (21-279, four TD). After that, Robby Hanauer has nine catches, as do Connor McGrath and Malik Turner, and Jonathan Hupp each had two TD catches.
On the ground, Chris Harris is the leading running back. He has 1,624 yards and 20 TD in 168 carries. After him, Whitaker has 737 with 13 TD in 107 carries and Green 665 yards and nine TD in 129 carries. Fourteen others have carries this year and combined Sacred Heart has 54 rushing TD as a team.
"I think they have a pretty strong offensive team, but their defense, I think we're going to run all over them," Grogan said. "That's at least from my perspective. I think it's going to be a crazy game but I think we are going to come out and roll them."
When SHG is on defense
Sacred Heart has allowed 229 points this season for an average of 19 points allowed per.
"In the films we saw, the one game it was against the spread an a team playing five-wide against them. The Chatham game, they run a similar offense to ours and in that game they were in a 4-4. It was a 4-3 or a 4-4 look," Thorson said. "They bring lots of pressure. They do lots of line stunts and guys are always moving around. They twist and thing like that."
Which means that the offensive line is going to be tested again.
"The offensive line really has to talk this week," Thorson said. "They have to communicate with each other and make sure that have their blocking assignments down."
The leading tackler for SHG is Trey Winberg. He has 125 tackles this fall. John Belz has 112 tackles.
"They have two different types of personnel groups. They have good size, but overall they are not the biggest team we've seen by far," Thorson said. "But they have a couple of big lineman that they can put in. They do a lot of things we'll. They are fast on defense. They are fast and they swarm to the ball."
In last week's overtime win against Washington, Morris opened the offense up a little more instead of staying with a T-formation which was a key to the team's early playoff success.
"Probably our best success running last week was in the I. We were able to move the ball. Credit goes to Washington, they really tightened things up," Thorson said.
"We also went to spread for a while. I thought we were successful in spread. We were able to get some first downs and move the ball. Completed some passes out of it. I'm confident this week that we can run any offense we want. That doesn't mean they are going to stop us, We've practiced this stuff all year. We can come out in spread T or I. We can mix it up. We've had a versatile offense all year."