The Monroe City defense will battle an explosive East Buchanan offense Saturday with a trip to the Class 1 state championship on the line.
The Monroe City defense proved last week they are more than capable of having success against a spread offense. Sans one scoring drive, the Panthers defense dominated a talented Westran offense in a 44-7 win.
This week the Panthers defense will once again be challenged by a high-powered offense.
East Buchanan enters Saturday’s Class 1 state semifinal contest at Lankford Field averaging close to 300 yards per game through the air.
Bulldogs signal caller Tyler Schottel has completed 292 passes for an impressive 3,567 yards with 39 touchdowns.
Schottel has completed at least 50 passes to three different receivers including 80 for 1,132 yards to Seth Kenagy.
“They are really good in the passing game,” Panthers coach David Kirby said. “We have looked at a lot of their film and they remind you a lot of the old Mizzou 5-wide spread. They have an exceptional quarterback who does a good job of reading what the defense is in and picks and chooses his targets.”
Panthers safety Dawson Shively, who had an interception in last week's win, said he is excited for the challenge the Bulldogs offense presents.
“We are looking to do as good as we did last week,” the senior said. “We didn’t really get the respect we deserve before that game and they overlooked what we could do, but we showed we can cover a good spread offense. I get more excited for these kind of games 'cause I like to show other teams what we (defensive backs) are made of.”
Although Westran was good preparation for the Panthers defense, Kirby mentioned East Buchanan will be a tougher challenge.
“It sure doesn’t hurt (facing Westran),” the Panthers coach said. “It gets our kids ready, but East Buchanan is a different style of spread. Westran liked to sprinkle in a zone stretch and try to run the ball, where East Buchanan runs the ball a little bit, but its primary goal is to confuse you with their formation and try and throw the ball. And if you try and sneak up on them a little too soon, they will throw over the top of you. It is definitely a challenge and hopefully we are up to the task.”
As much of a challenge the Bulldogs offense presents to Monroe City, East Buchanan coach Kevin Bryan knows his team is in for a tall order as well.
The Panthers are averaging 45 points a game led by 1,000-yard rushers Cole Pennewell and Zach Osborn.
“Their running game is the best we have seen,” Bryan said of the Panthers. “They are big and fast and they are good at handling any defense you throw at them.”
The East Buchanan defense is allowing 22 points per game.
Kirby mentioned despite the Bulldogs ability to put points on the board in a hurry with its passing game, his offense does not feel any added pressure.
“Honestly we are just going to go out and play our game, the Panthers coach said. “People say there is so much pressure but we just have to play our game. If we come out and make minimal mistakes, stay true to ourselves, and play aggressive on the offense, defense and special teams I think we will be OK.
“They are a really good team, but I like to think we are a good team as well. We are just going to go out there and play a game of football and see where the cards fall.”
Bryan mentioned the turnover battle will be one key to who advances to the state championship game.
“We will need to stay away from turnovers and not give them extra opportunities or short field position,” the Bulldogs coach said. “I am sure it is going to be an exciting game with two good teams matched up and a lot on the line.”
East Buchanan has forced 28 turnovers on the year, but it has also turned the ball over almost as much.
Schottel has thrown 19 interceptions on the season.
Shively, Blake Hays, Osborn, Nehemiah Batsell and Nathan Mehrer all roam the Panthers secondary.
“We have a lot of smart and athletic kids in our secondary,” Kirby said. “They all love a challenge. We have talked all season long about how the reward for success is more hard work. This is that extra hard work. This group is a solid secondary and I think we are going to see just how good they can be.”
Kickoff for the Class 1 state semifinal game is slated for 1 p.m. on Saturday.