Vandercook playing for home field, Springport playing for the playoffs as two teams meet tonight
By Mike Moore
Jackson – There’s a bit of desperation, and then there’s a whole ton of it.
That about sums up tonight’s battle between the Vandercook Lake and Springport football teams.
Vandercook, 7-1 and locked into a playoff spot, has a good shot at hosting an opener next week if the Jayhawks can find a way to win.
Springport, 5-3 and resting squarely on the bubble, has an outside shot to make the postseason at 5-4, but is guaranteed a spot with what would likely be considered an upset on Vandercook — on the road no less.
Is that enough to get excited about tonight’s Week 9 meeting?
“We expect them to play like their backs are against the wall,” Jayhawks coach Steve Wolvin said. “They are going to pull out all the stops.”
This isn’t the first time the teams have met in 2015.
In the season opener, Vandercook took what was a 14-14 tie at halftime, and turned it into a 27-14 victory, thanks in large part to a number of defensive stops deep in its own territory in the second half, and a third quarter touchdown by center Koby Bushinski after a fumble.
“And that game doesn’t factor in at all,” Wolvin cautioned. “I think both tams are much better. They run some things differently, and I think we are too.”
Vandercook started the season with seven consecutive wins, but the thumb injury of star running back/linebacker Malik Wilks has certainly taken its toll on the team.
He missed all offensive plays in the first half of a 30-27 win against Michigan Center, and then missed the entirety of last week’s 29-7 loss against Manchester.
Wolvin said Wilks is “questionable” for tonight’s game.
“But they have a handful of big, strong, athletic guys we’re going to have to be ready for,” Springport coach Matt Schwartzkopf said. “They are going to be bigger and stronger and faster. It’s going to be up to our offense to draw up a scheme and find ways to get things done.”
If Wilks can’t go, Zaithon Allen will be the primary back and Nolan Hancock will likely throw the ball slightly more.
“If he’s able to go, he’ll have that big club on (his thumb) and have to protect himself,” Wolvin said of Wilks. “He makes everything better when he’s out there. Guys around him feel better.”
Springport is no slouch when it comes to scoring, either, which could be enhanced if Wilks can’t play.
The Spartans are averaging more than 30 points per game, and in their past three wins have scored 48, 48 and 38 points, respectively.
In the past two weeks, Springport has rushed for more than 400 yards in each game.
Quarterback Dallas Burger leads the rushing attack with 980 yards on 130 carries. Logan Browning has 667 yards on 126 carries.
“Logan Browning is tough. Dallas Burger runs the show,” Wolvin said. “If we get up field they will go underneath us, and we’ll be in trouble.”
Schwartzkopf agreed with Wolvin in the notion that the results from Week 1 mean very little come Week 9.
“I think we’re healthier now than we were then,” Schwartzkopf said. “We hung tight with them until the second half. We have to find ways to move the ball on them. But the key will be the defense. We have to match their intensity.”
For Wolvin, the key to victory, broken all the way down, is rather simple.
“I really think it comes down to us getting our mojo back,” he said. “Manchester found some weaknesses in what we do, and they attacked. Hopefully we’ve corrected those mistakes and we come out and play physical and aggressive.”
Mike Moore is a play-by-play commentator and Sports Writer for JTV Sports. You can reach him at email@example.com. He’s also the author of ‘Love, Defined; A Dedication to the Love, Sacrifice, and Magic of Motherhood.’