Milan and Marceline meet for the third time in less than a decade in the district playoffs. This time it comes under the new format where the winner moves on to the state playoffs. A place the Wildcats missed out on last season by losing the same game to Salisbury. Marceline beat the second seeded Panthers last week to make it to Monday night’s title game.
Milan comes into this year’s matchup with another undefeated record. Marceline, the No. 3 seed, comes in with three losses. However, those losses came to Class 2 Brookfield, No. 1 ranked Westran and an earlier loss to Salisbury. The Tigers, if nothing else, have been tested and shown improvement. They turned a Week 5 loss against Salisbury, 17-0, into a 28-9 win just five weeks later.
The ’Cats have somewhat been on cruise control. They haven’t faced a team this season with a winning record. They have however, beat the teams they are supposed to beat and beat them handily. Milan has won every game by at least three touchdowns, and when their game against Albany is removed no one has scored more than two touchdowns on them.
Most people who follow high school football are familiar with the way Milan likes to play. They run the ball as many times a game as they can, they play field position football and allow their defense to work with short fields and not have to spend much time on the field.
However, there is a hidden element to the Wildcats game this season they may not have been there in past seasons. They have skill players who can win matchups on the outside and a quarterback who can get them the ball when asked. This will likely become a key factor in their game on Monday night, as they haven’t faced a team as big and physical as the Tigers this season.
Marceline has added the element of passing to their normally veer-heavy scheme. The Tigers look to quarterback Blake Linebalm to lead not only their rushing game, but now to put the ball in the air.
“This is a really good matchup. Both teams are very similar in what we want to do. We go about those things in different ways, but we want to accomplish the same goal,” said Milan head coach John Dabney.
The goal is to pound the other team and wear them down in the second half, “take a defensive mindset to offense,” said Dabney.
One thing the Tigers have in their defensive package Milan may not is a game-changer in the defensive secondary. Trevor Hamilton came up with four interceptions in their district opening win against Braymer. Last week he added another.
The two teams bring star power to the field that is expected in a district title game. Milan has likely Daily Express Player of the Year Aaron Richardson in the backfield and making plays in the other teams’ backfields. Marceline counters with 2012 All-State linebacker Dakota Lewis and Blake Belzer, who rushed for 252 yards against Braymer.
“They are good everywhere. That makes it tough to prepare because you can’t focus on where one guy is going to be, because they guy next to him is just as good,” said Dabney.
This is the third time in the past seven years that these two have met for the district title. Milan has won the previous two including in 2011 7-6, when the Tigers had a late touchdown called back on an offensive pass interference call.
This game is set for Monday night at Cal Hubbard Field in Milan for a 7 p.m. kickoff.