Around the Region

Doing their homework on the fly

Adam Dansdill and the Thunder defense will need to slow Lakeland quarterback Michael Whitley.
Photo by Michael Hudson 

Sunday night, Wheaton coach Mike Swider did not know much about his first round playoff opponent Lakeland, but he and his coaching staff were burning the midnight oil trying to find out.

The Thunder, Division III's sixth-ranked team, will take on the Muskies at home in the opener on Saturday.

While Wheaton opens the playoff with its second straight NACC opponent (they beat Benedictine 43-14 in last year's playoff opener), two other playoff games feature Midwest teams. St. Norbert (10-0) will go on the road to take on two-time defending national champs UW-Whitewater (9-1), while Franklin (8-2) will play at home against Ohio Northern (8-2) from the strong Ohio Athletic Conference.

"We're just trying to figure that out now," Swider said Sunday. "We just got the tapes exchanged.
We've never played them. I know that they won their league, they're 8-2, got a quarterback that's put up some numbers and that's about all we know."

Lakeland's quarterback Michael Whitley has averaged 368.8 yards passing per game in his last five contests, including churning out 520 yards in total offense in the Muskies 46-22 win over Benedictine in what was essentially the NACC's championship game last Saturday.

Lakeland coach Colin Bruton said he hopes Whitley continues to have the hot hand, but it can't all be on him.

"(Whitley's) been outstanding and he's been the guy that makes us go," said Bruton, Lakeland's first year coach who returned the Muskies to the playoffs for the first time since 2009. "For us to have a shot on Saturday, he's going to have to play really well and the guys catching the football will have to play really well.

"That's kind of an advantage that we've had all year, our skilled guys against everybody else's secondary. Those guys have gotten better each week. I think we've had five guys who caught six balls or more Saturday. Those are the guys who will have to be the difference makers."

Wheaton has been one of Division III's top teams all year long, bouncing from No. 8 to No. 5 in the rankings this season. Lakeland's offense will face a defensive unit that gives up only 174.8 yards passing a contest and 10.5 points a game. Linebacker Adam Dansdill has 97 tackles on the year and 12 tackles for losses while linebacker Logan McRae has 7.5 sacks.

Swider said he did not believe his team, which advanced to the second round of the playoffs a year ago, will look past Lakeland.

"I've said this many times that you can't go anywhere unless you win on Saturday," Swider said. "If you can't focus on the task at hand, then shame on you. We've already challenged our players that we have one game to play and that's against Lakeland...

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Clyde Hughes

Clyde Hughes has been writing sports at various times over the past 24 years, covering everything from high school, college and sporting events. A native of football-crazed Texas, Hughes works in Indiana and has written for numerous newspapers and magazines.
2003-04 columnist: John Regenfuss


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