Miners prepare for next step in postseason journey
With an unprecedented in school history fifth consecutive sectional title in hand the Linton-Stockton Miners take the next step in a postseason journey they hope leads to Lucas Oil Stadium the day after Thanksgiving.
The 11-1 Miners travel to West Washington to take on the undefeated Senators (11-0) in Friday's Class A regional. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
West Washington is the first undefeated foe the Miners have faced since North Vermillion in Week 4.
"They will be the best team we've seen since week 4. They're big, strong, physical and well-coached," Miner defensive coordinator Mark Gennicks said.
The Senators have had just one close game, a 26-24 win at 3A Salem in their regular season finale.
West Washington and Linton-Stockton have played - and beaten - four common opponents. None of those games have been close for either team.
The Miners boast a wider margin of victory over the best of those common opponents - Perry Central and Eastern Greene.
Linton dominated Perry 63 - 7 in the sectional semifinal at Perry. WW won 31 - 14 at Perry in the regular season.
The Senators ousted Eastern Greene in their sectional semifinal, winning 34-21. The Miners thrashed the Thunderbirds 69-7 at Eastern Greene in Week 8.
West Washington shut out Springs Valley 50-0 and Tecumseh 40-0, both at home. Linton-Stockton won 65-13 at Tecumseh and 62-20 at Springs Valley.
The Senators will present multiple looks offensively. They will spread out and also go to double-tight end formations with a full house backfield.
West Washington's biggest offensive threat is running back Landon McPheeters. McPheeters has rushed for 1,814 and 28 touchdowns. Of those, 203 yards and 4 TDs came against Eastern Greene.
At 6-2 and 215 pounds he'll be the biggest back the Miners have faced.
"He's a tough kid. You can tell on film he's a big physical kid. He likes to run north and south but he's got the speed to make a guy miss.
"He looks like he just enjoys running over people," Gennicks said.
Quarterback Michael Sizemore is a threat to air the ball out.
Coach Brian Oliver described Sizemore as "A very mobile quarterback who makes some smart decisions."
Gennicks was equally impressed. "It looks like he's got a good arm and he has a good corps of receivers to throw to. If we can slow the running game down they won't hesitate to throw the ball.
We've got to be able to stop the run and defend the pass too. "
The Senator receiving corps includes Derrick Leep, Lane Trueblood and Isaiah Snyder.
Oliver considers up back Jacob Harris a potential threat as well. Harris is a 5-4, 155-pound scatback the Miner head man describes as "A very fast kid. He'd fit very well in our system."
West Washington has ample size across the front. Five lineman top 240 pounds with two 300-pounders.
"I see a lot of size up front. They've got a lot of size and move well for big guys," Oliver said.
He also noted WW's aggressive style of defense.
That Senator defense will have to contend with Linton-Stockton's overall team speed - and a pair of 1,100-yard rushers.
Mitch Eberhardt's 109 yards against North Central pushed him over the 1,000-yard mark with 1,100.
Tyler Meurer has rushed for 1,138. Both are averaging 12 yards a carry.
Meurer is closing in on 1,200 passing yards with 1,195. He has completed 65 percent of his attempts (59 of 91).
Pierce Jackson continues to pile up the multi-purpose yards - 829 rushing, 656 receiving.
Fullback Garrett Mason has rambled for 728 yards.
Paving the way for the Miners' four-headed monster backfield has been All-State lineman Dylan Morris and his 76 pancake blocks.
Morris is second on the defensive unit with 101 tackles.
Jackson is the leading tackler with 110.
Of the 110 points the Miners have allowed this season, just 48 have come against the starting defense. The reserve unit has surrendered 42 and another 20 have come against special teams, on two kickoff returns and one punt return.
This game could come down to size vs. speed. West Washington is bigger across the board. But the Senators don't appear to have the team speed to match the Miners.