Mifsud and Western know the challenge and reward possible Saturday against Lumen
By Mike Moore
Jackson – If you had asked him Sept. 18 what his team’s chances were heading into one of its biggest obstacles of the season, Dave Mifsud may not have had much of anything to say.
But a lot has changed since the Western football team fell to Coldwater 34-0, dropping to 2-2 on the season after a 2-0 start.
“Our team feels a lot better about itself,” Mifsud said. “We had two tough losses that put us in a funk.”
But then came a 35-0 victory against Charlotte in Week 5, and last week’s 28-25 victory over Harper Creek.
“We bounced back against Charlotte,” Mifsud added. “Then we played a quality game against Harper Creek and really built up the confidence of this group.”
Just in time, too, as the Panthers (4-2) prepare for Saturday night’s tilt with Lumen Christi at 6 p.m. from Withington Stadium at Jackson High.
Western is 1-20 all time against the Titans, but may have its best shot to find a second victory Saturday against a Lumen team that’s dropped two in a row and is trying to snap out of its own funk.
“The confidence is there,” Mifsud said. “I think our kids believe there are some imperfections (with Lumen). But being the coach, I know the chip on the shoulder Lumen is going to bring. There is no way they want to lose three games in a row.”
Lumen started the season 4-0, but has since lost 21-14 to Marshall and 26-7 last week to Coldwater.
The Titans hadn’t lost consecutive regular season games since 2011 and haven’t lost three in a row since 2004 — a season they started 2-3 before winning nine in a row and the Division 5 state title.
“They are a real good team,” Mifsud said. “I’m quite sure they aren’t used to having two losses at this point, but they compete at a high level, and that’s what we expect. … It’s a very disciplined team that is very good at the things it does well. You have to be impressed with how fast they play.”
And that’s where the key to victory rests for Western.
Lumen is going to try and run the ball. And when that fails, if it does, the Titans will run it again and again.
“We have to find a way to slow that down,” Mifsud said about his defense, which is giving up just 22.5 points per game, and just 15 in the four wins.
On the offensive side of things, the Panthers have shown the ability to pass and run, and do each successfully. But Mifsud said a second key is “quality possessions.”
In other words, keep the Panthers’ offense on the field as long as possible.
But will they do it with the run or pass?
“It really depends on how they’re going to play us,” Mifsud said. “If they are playing to stop the run, we will have to pass some more. If they give us some room in the box, we’ll attack with the run. I’m very impressed with their defensive backs so we have to be careful if we do put it up.”
When Marshall defeated Lumen two weeks ago, coach Jason Stealy called it one of the biggest wins the program had had in years.
Mifsud didn’t want to speculate on what a win would mean.
“Wait and see what happens, and then I can answer that,” he said with a laugh. “I know beating Harper Creek was a huge win for our guys. Since I’ve been here we hadn’t had a win like that. Going into this game, we’re playing a perennial power. To get a win would be pretty significant.”
Western’s only victory against Lumen was a 14-7 triumph in 1976.
The game will be broadcast on JTV and jtv.tv on Sunday at 1:00pm and 7:00pm.