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Coming off a record-setting offensive performance in a win over Shawnee last Friday, the Kenton Wildcats know the task before them this week will likely be a lot more difficult when they travel to Ottawa-Glandorf to face the unbeaten Titans.
The Wildcats enter the game at 3-1 overall and 3-0 in WBL play, while the Titans, ranked fifth in the most recent Associated Press Division IV state poll, are 4-0 and 3-0.
The winner will have a leg up on the other team in the quest for a Western Buckeye League championship, which Kenton has won or shared for the past four seasons.
It is also a battle of the top two scoring teams in the WBL as O-G is averaging 48.5 point per game, while Kenton is putting up 47.0
Kenton coach Mike Mauk said the task at hand for the Wildcats will not be easy against O-G, picked by many as the preseason favorite to win the WBL.
“For us we’re playing the best of everything that we’ve played against this year,” Mauk said. “As a team, they have outstanding size, speed and athleticism and they’re well-coached and bring back the most experience in the league. They have no apparent weaknesses. They’re the best of what we’ve seen this season without a doubt. It’s going to be a difficult challenge for us.”
The Wildcats defeated Shawnee 66-42 in week four.
Quarterback Grant Sherman was 47 of 56 for a state-record 682 yards with nine touchdown passes in a little over three quarters of play during the Wildcats win.
Justin Sawmiller was his top receiver grabbing 16 passes for 320 yards with a pair of touchdown catches.
Zach Wolowicz and Kollin Stollar also topped the century mark in receiving yardage with 155 and 111 yards, respectively. Stollar had three scoring catches, while Wolowicz had two.
Through four weeks Sherman has completed 124 of 177 passes for 1,737 yards with 24 touchdown passes and two interceptions. He is also the Wildcats leading rusher with 93 yards and a touchdown.
Sawmiller leads the Wildcat receivers with 48 catches for 764 yards and seven touchdowns. Wolowicz had 29 receptions for 372 yards and 5 scores and Colyn Blackford has added 24 catches for 305 yards and six scores.
The Wildcats are averaging 486.5 yards per game offensively.
Defensively, the Wildcats are allowing 252 yards per contest with 121 of that being rushing yardage.
Last week, Matt Bahr led the Wildcats with 13 tackles. Caleb Halsey had two interceptions and a fumble recovery.
Bahr leads the WBL with 14.3 tackles per game from his middle linebacker position.
“I think we’re improving each week,” Mauk said. “But there are a lot of things we can continue to improve upon and things we have to continue to get better at. We’re 3-0 at this point of the WBL schedule and we’re pleased with that, but we also realize we have difficult opponents ahead of us.”
Mauk said that while he is pleased with the progress of Sherman at quarterback and the effort of his receivers, a less-recognized reason for the Wildcats success has been the development of the offensive line.
“They’ve improved tremendously since the beginning of the season, behind the leadership of seniors J.T. Engle and Owen Shafer. Chad Shark has done an outstanding job at center and our three tackles – Marcus Rhoades, Logan Nichols and Larry Wells – have all played better and better.”
The Titans, a 70-21 winner over Defiance in week four, will try and overpower the Wildcats with their ground attack led by senior Tristan Parker.
The Titans are averaging 445.3 yards per game with 361 of that coming on the ground.
“It’s no secret that we’re going to want to run the football and try and sustain long drives,” Schriner said. “We have to put points on the scoreboard when we have the opportunity to. But it’s definitely a contrast of styles.”
Parker ran for over 1,300 yards as a junior and is well on his way to eclipsing that mark this season as he has accumulated more than 700 yards through four games.
Parker has 11 touchdowns and is averaging 7.7 yards per carry.
Quarterback Caleb Siefker has rushed for 506 yards and six touchdowns and thrown for 314 yards with 5 touchdowns and an interception.
In the win over Defiance, the Titans rolled up 570 yards on the ground with Parker running for 226 yards and three TDs on 14 carries
“I don’t know if you can stop their run,” Mauk said. “Their running back (Parker) is averaging close to 200 yards per game rushing and their quarterback (Siefker) is as elusive as their running back and he throws a great pass. They’re going to be difficult to defend. Scoring 70 points against Defiance is indicative of how good they are.”
The Titans also have the biggest offensive line the Wildcats will likely face this season.
“They’re big, strong, physical and as athletic as anyone we’ve played against,” Mauk said.
The KHS coach also said the Wildcats will have their work cut out for them against O-G’s defense, which is giving up 282.3 yards per game (124.0 passing yards).
“If you look at the past several years, they have defended us as well as anybody has,” Mauk said.
Schriner said that his team, while improving, still has some work ahead of it to achieve the type of success he feels is attainable.
“We’re improving,” he said. “That’s the thing we ask of our kids – that they make sure that they compete and try to get better every day. But we’re a work in progress.”
The fact that there always seems to be a lot at stake when the two teams play is a testament of the work the players and coaches have put into their respective programs over the years, Schriner said.
“It’s always a tough physical battle with two teams that play extremely hard,” the O-G coach said. “I think that’s a credit to what both programs are doing.”
The Wildcats, who have won 18 straight WBL contests and 36 of the last 37 league contests, have suffered their last two league losses against the Titans.
Their last loss was a 22-20 setback to the Titans in 2010. Prior to that the Wildcats last league loss was against O-G in 2008.
“It’s gone back and forth with each of us getting the best of the other at times over the years,” Schriner said. “The past few years the home team has had the advantage, so we’re hoping for a big crowd that will come out and support us and help give us the lift we need.”
Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
By KENDRICK JESIONOWSKI
Times sports editor