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Miami County schools hit the road for TRC Playoffs

BY TRENT SCOTT - tscott@perutribune.com

Friday marks the final regular season game for the Miami County schools with the TRC Playoff games scheduled to take place at the North Division schools.

The Peru Tribune talked to the county coaches ahead of Friday’s games, featuring two week three rematches, and takes a look at the games ahead.

3rd Place Game

Peru (4-4, 3-1 South Division) at Rochester (6-2, 2-2 North Division) 7 p.m.

The first of the two rematches sees the Tigers trying to avenge a 29-20 loss to the Zebras back on September 1.

At the time, Peru was 0-3 and a bit lost after chastising defeats to Logansport and Northfield to open the season.

Tiger head coach Bob Prescott said the first meeting came down to giving the ball away too many times to overcome.

“We had three turnovers that really hurt us,” Prescott said. “Give credit to Rochester as they played well and deserved to win.

“We fumbled a punt return and kickoff return that turned the game from 7-6 to 21-6. We competed, battled the whole game and are looking forward to seeing how much we’ve improved by playing someone we’ve seen before.”

Since the meeting, Peru has won four of its last five games, averaging just over 39 points-per-game with Prescott pleased that the team was moving in the right direction.

“We’ve gotten better in all aspects of the game every week,” Prescott said. “We haven’t put 48 minutes of play together but we did play 24 minutes against North Miami.

“Our offense has been better since week four, our defense has been better since week four and we’re doing some good special teams things. Now it’s about going out and showing it against another good team.”

Both Peru and Rochester are run-first teams but as Prescott noted, the way in which each team went about its offense was about as different as could be.

“(Rochester) is probably the opposite of us in terms of tempo,” Prescott said. “They look for long, sustained drives that eat up a lot of clock while we’re trying to go as up-tempo as we can.

“Playing Rochester, you’re not going to get as many possessions as you normally get, so you have to take advantage of the ones you do have to get points on the board. It’s also important to get some three-and-outs to get their offensive on the field.

“We also have to do a much better job on special teams than we did back in week three,” Prescott added.

With the players playing better as the season has moved along, Prescott said the team had a chance to return to a place it was three years ago and see how far the program has come along.

“We said the North Miami game was a chance to get some wins going and get on a roll,” Prescott said. “Our freshmen were on the sideline with some getting some time during the sectional final against Jimtown in 2014.

“There’s an opportunity, if we do what we’re supposed to do, that maybe we get to go back to play Jimtown again and that’s a chance for us to see how we’ve grown as a team. We’re didn’t overlook North Miami and we’re not going to overlook Rochester or Tippecanoe Valley but we’ve set that goal out there.”

5th Place Game

North Miami (5-3, 3-1 South Division) at Tippecanoe Valley (2-6, 2-2 North Division) 7 p.m.

The other rematch from week three sees a Warrior squad that was in dismay after the end of the game against Peru take on a Vikings squad that has been under the spotlight for the wrong reasons in the past two weeks.

North Miami head coach Joe Grant said the players were earnest in their approach this week and were doing well in moving past the game against the Tigers.

“We’ve had a really good week of practice,” Grant said. “We don’t like the outcome against Peru but we have to keep moving forward, focus on Valley and moving on into the sectional.

“We talked to the kids and the kids have talked to us. We gave them an assessment right after the game last week, broke down the film and watched it with the kids.”

North Miami won the first meeting of the season with Tippecanoe Valley 28-0 with all the scoring action happening in the first 24 minutes of the game.

Grant said the team did well in the first half, as they had done in other games, but needed to make it two halves of good play, not just one.

“We went into halftime leading 28-0 and we finished the game 28-0,” Grant said. “We had success moving the ball in the first half, more so than in the second half.

“We know Valley is going to come out and do more of the things they did in the second half of that game. We have to play four quarters of football because we just can’t put a first half together and not a second.

“Against Peru, we put up 21 points and everyone saw where that went in the second half,” Grant added. “We have to play four quarters of football in all three phases of the game to have success.”

A win over the Vikings would see the Warriors finish with 11 wins over TRC opponents in the past two seasons though Grant said expecting to beat a team by showing up was not going to work and wanted the players to rebuild some momentum heading into sectional play.

“There’s been a lot of competitive games across the board in the TRC this year,” Grant said. “Wins don’t come on paper and you have to compete to win in this conference.

“We’re approaching this week as a chance to finish our conference season with a win and have this be a catalyst for us. It’s not a make-or-break game but the kids want to win and it’s important to add to morale ahead of sectionals.”

7th Place Game

Maconaquah (2-6, 1-3 South Division) at Manchester (3-5, 2-2 North Division) 7 p.m.

The only fresh matchup among the county schools this week sees the Braves try to get back on track after four-straight losses against a Squire team that has won two-in-a-row over Whitko and Rochester.

Despite the losses piling up the past few weeks, Maconaquah head coach Mark Hartman said the players were continuing to press forward and improve their game.

“We take what we have and continue to work and build around it,” Hartman said. “We’re playing three kids right now consistently that were finishing up playing in eighth grade, which makes a difference.

“The improvement is showing in our style of play with some of the early mistakes not happening. Continuing to keep working on this is going to help this program down the road.”

For the TRC Playoff matchup, Hartman said the Squires presented the team with a balanced attack, one that was showing signs of life late in the season.

“(Manchester) has a balanced attack,” Hartman said. “(Hays Sturtsman) throws the ball very well and they have several backs that stick it up inside.

“They run a lot of spread looks, throwing a lot of quick passes, with the inside zone wedge run. Defensively, they’ve been pretty inventive against other teams that run double tight ends like we do, so it will be a challenge to run the ball on the inside.”

Hartman noted that Manchester’s offense was not too dissimilar to what Southwood ran the previous week.

The coach noted, however, that the team had to do a much better job in their assignments after the Knights overran the Braves’ defense last week.

“Defensively, we’ll be doing almost the same thing we did last week against Southwood,” Hartman said. “We just didn’t execute against Southwood, having a tough time covering them.

“We’ve had some extra days to go over those things and spent the first three days this week working on making sure we take care of those things defensively.”

With sectionals a week away, Hartman said getting a win was important to get some confidence built back up ahead of postseason play.

“It’s imperative we get back to winning ways,” Hartman said. “We had two heartbreaker losses and two games we were clearly beaten in.

“We have to get back to the way were playing back at the beginning of the season. We have new guys in there but it’s next man up and those guys have to get the job done.”