After three years of dominance by Anthony Wayne, there will be a new king of the Northern Lakes League and the first of three weeks of huge games begins Friday when Perrysburg invades Buckenmeyer Stadium to clash with the Wildcats.
Napoleon, along with Perrysburg and Bowling Green, are all 3-0 in this shortened high school football season. The Yellow Jackets and Bobcats meet next week at Perrysburg, with BG hosting Napoleon in the final game of the regular season the following week.
For now, all eyes in the NLL are on Buckenmeyer Stadium, and that is just how the two coaches preparing for this game like it.
“This has the feel of the 2012 Perrysburg game,” said Napoleon coach Tory Strock, whose Wildcats won the NLL crown in 2012. “It has the feel of the 2012 Anthony Wayne game. Along with that, it has the feel of the 2012 playoff game against Bryan at Toledo Central Catholic. This has that big-time feel, and what’s funny about that is there is just something in the air that’s different for these types of games. You can say, it’s just another game all you want. No it’s not. It’s THE game.”
“It’s a big test this week. They (Napoleon) are a good football team,” Perrysburg coach Matt Kregel said. “I am looking forward to it. You look forward to the big game atmosphere. This is a big game. This is what we practice for, and it’s fun to do.”
The Yellow Jackets enter the game ranked 10th in Division I after victories over Springfield (45-18), Anthony Wayne (27-24) and Southview (54-0). Napoleon is 14th in Division IV and has wins over Southview (35-0), Springfield (49-21) and Maumee (56-0).
Perrysburg is led by sophomore running back Connor Walendzak, who has rushed for 394 yards and six touchdowns on 67 carries.
Senior quarterback Christian Gulgin is 22 of 43 passing for 323 yards with six TDs and two interceptions. However, Perrysburg will play two quarterbacks during the game with sophomore Thomas Takats also taking snaps.
Strock said the Jackets like to utilize the run, pass option.
“The strength of their football team is their line,” said Strock. “They’re big, they’re physical and they are athletic. They have a sophomore tailback, Walendzak, who is lightning quick with tremendous speed. So, he will get the majority of touches for them. He reminds you of Mikey Chipps. If you are not disciplined defensively and start over-pursuing or getting too deep on the defensive line, it’s 6 points. He is very explosive.”
Defense is the real strength for Perrysburg. The Jackets are allowing a total of 474 yards in three games, including an average of 74.33 yards rushing. They have forced seven fumbles and two interceptions.
Jack Higgins leads the defense with 18 tackles and a fumble recovery.
“The thing about Perrysburg is they don’t get real cute defensively,” said Strock. “They don’t throw a bunch of different blitzes at you. They don’t throw a bunch of different coverages at you. They’re pretty static in the way they line up. They just say, ‘Our guys are better than yours.’ What we have to do with formation and motions is get creative that way to make sure we either have even numbers or a numbers advantage on every play.”
Napoleon has relied heavily on its running game so far this season. Senior Jarrett Gerdeman has 411 yards rushing on 53 carries and 11 TDs, while Chipps, a junior, has 359 yards on 36 carries and three scores.
Senior quarterback Zack Rosebrook is 14 of 20 passing for 274 yards and three TDs.
“They run it really well,” said Kregel. “They are not complicated in what they do. It’s not something that you see every week. They just try to force you to having one guy out of place.
“With that type of offense, they run the clock. They try to control the time of possession and beat you by a score,” he added.
However, the Wildcats, according to Strock, are not just a running team this season and they are ready to unveil their diversity just in time for the biggest game of the year ... so far.
“We’re hoping that we’ve got enough tools in our toolbox that we’re going to have a solution to every problem Friday night,” said the Napoleon football coach. “It may be mixing in more throws early in the game to hopefully loosen them up for our run game. There are some things in the passing game we have not shown yet that we have ready to go.
“For us it’s going to come down to in-game adjustments and seeing what they’re doing,” added Strock. “We feel we have a remedy for just about everything.”
Kick-off is set for 7 p.m. Friday.