Sissonville takes on red-hot Wayne
Not many teams crave a game with Wayne - not the way the Pioneers are playing right now. But you might count Sissonville in that number.
The defending Class AA champion Pioneers (3-0) invade Joe Sawyer Field tonight in a matchup of top-10 teams with the host Indians (2-1). Kickoff is set for 7:30.
Wayne, ranked No. 3 in AA, opened a lot of eyes around the state last week with the ease in which it dispatched unbeaten Ravenswood on its home turf. The final score was a whopping 84-42, a game the Pioneers led 64-12 at halftime.
"They put it on Ravenswood,'' said Sissonville coach Eddie Smolder. "Wayne has a good team and a great program, and we have the utmost respect for them and their staff. They're first-class people and coaches. But on the same hand, we're not going to be intimidated or back down from anybody. We'll play our game, play hard and see what happens.''
Wayne has breezed through its first three games by scores of 58-12 (Chesapeake, Ohio), 46-7 (Herbert Hoover) and 84-42, meaning its first-string players have seen little or no time in the second halves. Leading rusher Brandon Spurlock (375 yards, three touchdowns) has just a single second-half carry this season.
Pioneers coach Tom Harmon doubts that his players have lost any of their hunger for success despite the easy start.
"If anybody knows anything about our coaches and our players,'' Harmon said, "it's that there's not a whole lot of arrogance there. Most people in that situation have had their tough spots and losses happen along the way. You take nothing for granted. You should feel pretty confident, but we do know that last week don't mean a whole lot for this week.''
Wayne blew past Sissonville 60-12 last year, pounding out 360 yards on the ground and also throwing a season-high three TD passes.
Harmon, however, sees a much-different Sissonville team lining up against him tonight - one that's turned the corner from previous years, when it posted records of 2-8, 0-10 and 3-7. The Indians enter the game ranked seventh in AA.
"They got a lot of production in the offseason,'' Harmon said. "Their kids worked hard, and generally the harder you work, the harder it is to surrender. From a coaching standpoint, they're going to be as good as anybody around. They're going to be prepared.
"When you get that kind of energy going, it's an exciting time. You're going to have a few setbacks that take place - they had one last week [a 27-18 loss to Scott]. But he's been there long enough and the kids have enough time invested that they'll come out and play people pretty well.''
Smolder said his team was disappointed with last week's setback to top-ranked Scott, a game the Indians led on two different occasions, but thinks his players still got something out of it.
"We're never satisfied after a loss,'' he said, "but we learned some important things from it. Our kids played hard, and we got after it. A bunch of our kids worked on individual drills on their own the following Sunday, then we watched film Monday, got some mistakes corrected, and have moved forward. We had one of our best practices of the year [Tuesday] and another great one [Wednesday]. They're more mature than they have been, and they're not letting anything take our vision away from what we want to accomplish.
"The biggest thing for us this week is to just play smart - protect the football on offense and tackle well on defense. If we do that, we'll be in the game. Our kids believe now that it's a matter of executing and being fundamentally sound.''
Trent Stowers leads the Indians in rushing (365 yards, four TDs) and is also the team's No. 2 receiver behind Nathan Miller.
No one expects another 80-point explosion tonight by Wayne, not even its coach.
"I think for the most part, last week was an anomaly,'' Harmon said. "I think circumstances dictated the way the score turned out early, and it just got rolling really fast and didn't ease up until a lot of points were on the board. You can't sit back and expect that to happen every week.''
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or email@example.com.