Blue Devils seeking revenge at Lucas
Coming off a 41-24 win over Leetonia and, in their words, hitting their stride, the McDonald Blue Devils make a trip down to Richland County again to take on the Lucas Cubs in the Division VII, Region 25 football semifinals.
Despite being the underdog — the lowest remaining seed in the region — the sixth-seeded Blue Devils aren’t scared to take on their opponent. In fact, this is exactly what they wanted.
“That’s what we’ve been waiting for,” said McDonald quarterback Dominic Schadl following his six-touchdown performance last week. “They were like our kryptonite last year. They beat us in two sports (football and basketball) by a combined three points, so we’re hungry to get a win against them.”
The fact that McDonald was in this exact situation last year gives the players a little more belief coming into the rematch.
“I think our kids are pretty confident to be honest with you,” Blue Devils coach Dan Williams said. “One thing about Lucas, they played them a year ago. It was a tough loss and we battled back-and-forth and hung in there. We were the true underdog last year.
“I think that experience last year, going down there and playing well and knowing we have most of our team back and they lost about seven or eight starters on both sides of the ball, really gives our kids that boost of confidence that we can go down and play with them.”
Despite losing multiple starters on both sides of the ball, Lucas comes into this game with a 6-2 record and played the entire regular season on the road. Their first two playoff victories were against Cuyahoga Heights and Independence.
The Cubs run a physical offense based on the Wing-T. Williams thinks the best course of action to counter them is to match the physicality.
“They want to be physical, and they’re great defensively,” Williams said. “They run the football, they tackle really well, they’re really disciplined offensively with the style of offense they run. … They’re just trying to get the ball to their skill kids and get them rolling behind the walls of big bodies.
“Their style of football is definitely an aggressive, physical style, and we’ve got to be able to match that and bring that intensity and physicality back our way as well.”
Going into the matchup with Leetonia, Williams mentioned how playing against run-heavy teams in the regular season prepared them well for the upcoming game.
“I think progressively, that was probably our best game of the year even though they scored three times,” Williams said. “That was our most complete game and the kids played really well offensively and defensively most of the time.”
The Leetonia game featured McDonald branching out on offense, opting to go through the air more than any other game this season.
After playing their self-described most complete game of the season, that confidence has increased, but the Blue Devils are not over-confident. A big credit to their success and their confidence has come from the play of their offensive line.
“We’re not cocky by any means, but we’re confident in our abilities,” Williams said. “I think our line’s been blocking really well, Schadl’s outstanding performance week in and week out and I think last week was really key too. We threw the ball over 100 yards where Schadl got some confidence.
“We hadn’t had to throw the ball, and last week, we threw the ball I think eight times, which was the highest total amount of throws we threw all year. He came out of there 6-of-8, 96 yards and I think his confidence is lifted because of that as well and it gave us another dimension offensively.”
Despite the confidence they have now, Williams says before last week’s game against the Bears, he feels his team was playing a little too cautious, but they went in with a new mindset and it gave them a big spark.
“Our kids were playing prior to that game a little tight,” he said. “They were almost afraid to lose and we had to try to get their mentality to change. We told them ‘You can’t be afraid to lose, you’ve got to expect to win’ and I think our mentality going into that game was that way and I think now we’re playing with a lot of confidence. We’re playing with a little chip on our shoulder now because we’re traveling the rest of the way.”
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Bob Wine Field in Lucas. The winner of this game advances to face the winner of Kennedy and Dalton in the regional finals.