The prep football playoffs are finally here for Champaign County participants.
Two OHC teams from the county made the Division VI, Region 24 playoffs.
Friday night, eighth-seeded West Liberty-Salem (6-4) will take on top-seeded Marion Local (9-1) at Maria Stein and third-seeded Mechanicsburg (10-0) will host sixth-seeded Miami East (7-3).
The Tigers were the last team in and facing off against a perennial power in Marion Local, which finished as last year’s state runner-up.
“We know this is a challenge, but I know the kids are excited,” WL-S Coach Dan McGill said. “We know the history and the quality of the team, but we saw them last year. Being on the field last year helps prepare these guys mentally.”
That mental preparation is important against a team like Marion Local, which is a preseason favorite to contend every season after more than a decade of dominance.
“Physically they’re extremely gifted and they’re well-coached. These are challenges that we’ll have to overcome on Friday,” McGill said. “We don’t need to add another challenge by giving them a mental edge before we even step on the field.”
And the physical preparation? That seems the one constant with WL-S.
“What we do doesn’t change, but I always think there’s a little extra juice – an electricity in the air. You’re playing at a time when most teams aren’t,” McGill said.
For Mechanicsburg, Miami East represents a mirror to test their mettle. The Vikings like to run a variation of the Wing T formation.
“We pride ourselves on being big and physical and strong,” M’burg Coach Kurt Forrest said. “And winning the battle up front. It’s really strength against strength. We’re going to go out and see who can perform the fundamentals.”
The mindset changes now for the Indians, who have beaten up every team in the regular season as if they’re scrimmaging.
“I think when I look into my upperclassmen’s eyes, not to downplay the regular season, but our kids have known all along that there’s something bigger out there,” Forrest said. “The intensity of the playoffs and the magnitude of the games increases. We have experienced, competitive players. They are ready to get the regular season behind them and are looking forward to what they’ve been working towards and cherishing.
“Our kids thrive in those do-or-die tournament situations. They seem to like that.”
Reach Justin Miller at 652-1331 (ext. 1776) or on Twitter @UDC_Miller.
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