Playoff atmosphere expected for Warren-Meadville
Warren has a big opportunity when it hosts Meadville at 7 p.m. today at War Memorial Field. Both teams are unbeaten in Region 5 and battling for the top spot with three region games left for the Dragons.
“Our kids have really been looking forward to this game,” said Warren coach Mark Morelli, whose Dragons are 3-1 over and 3-0 in region. Meadville is 2-2 overall and 2-0 in the region. “It is a measuring stick to see where we stand. Over the years, we have not had much success versus Meadville. … Our mantra this week has been: ‘To be the team, we have to beat the team,’ (and) that team is Meadville.
“With all due respect, Meadville is generally the preseason pick each year to win our region and each year they always seem to be in the playoffs, so for us to get where we want to go, the road leads through Meadville,” Morelli said.
As pumped as the Dragons may be about the big game, it’s the little things that will be key.
“The game becomes a game within the game,” said Morelli. “We have to win the individual battles. We can scheme and look for the matchups all we want, but we still need to win those individual matchups.
“It starts up front,” added Morelli. “We have had some outstanding performances from our defensive line in the three games we have won. At the same time, our offensive line has done an exceptional job as well. Both of those units have to maintain their solid level of play for us to be successful against Meadville. Meadville has a very well-coached offensive line who are well-schooled in the art of down blocking and kicking out. This has enabled their stable of backs to be as successful as they are. We have to control, or at least stalemate, the line of scrimmage.”
Containing the Bulldogs is key to Warren’s opportunities, ultimately.
“Well, big-time players make big-time plays in the big games,” said Morelli. “We have a number of players who could fulfill that statement; Ben White has certainly been a standout for us whether he is on the receiving end of a pass, on a kickoff return or a punt return. Tommy Nyquist has a twisting, turning style of running and is a threat to break one at any point. Gage Shaffer has been a dominate force at linebacker on defense, one of the best in our region. But if we had to zero in on a specific area to keep an eye on it would be our defensive ends, Easton Hultberg and Justice Greene along with our outside linebackers in Rashad FoFuna and Nick Pennucci. They will be seeing a lot of action coming their way tonight. But usually in these types of games, someone emerges who no one is expecting to, to make the game deciding play.”
And Morelli is expecting it.
“It could quite arguably be said that this may possibly be the biggest home game Warren has had in my five years here,” he said. “Senior night, playoff positioning at stake, a talented Meadville coming to town. I have to admit, there is an aura in the air, the excitement is noticeable, our kids will have some fire in them tonight. We will give it everything we have.”