It is Week One of the postseason and every game is a must win now. In Division I every tilt is going to be a knockdown, drag out affair. The West Side of Cincinnati and The Pit will be electric on Saturday night as Elder tries to defend its Southwest Regional title.
The task will not be easy as one of the hottest teams in the tournament, Huber Heights Wayne, pays a visit. The Warriors were bounced in the second round of the post-season by Colerain a year ago and look to prove they are the best team in Region 4.
ELDER PANTHERS Division I, Region 4 HEAD COACH: Doug Ramsey 2009 RECORD: 7-2
WAYNE WARRIORS Division I, Region 4 HEAD COACH: Jay Minton 2009 RECORD: 7-3
Elder's Key to Victory: One thing about the GWOC Central teams is that they don't face passing attacks as sophisticated as the Panthers are offensively. Quarterback Mark Miller needs to keep the Warriors' defense in check by hitting a myriad of receivers. Ben Coffaro is an x-factor because he can take it to the house via run, reception or return. The offensive diversity that has been this group's trademark over the past two years will need to shine through again Saturday night.
Wayne's Key to Victory: Wayne is a disciplined team. They don't commit penalties and they convert 41 percent of their third down chances on offense. Unlike anyone Elder has played the Warriors have the treats to stretch the defense downfield. If Wayne can complete timely passes then that opens the running game up for them. Moving the ball on offense will kill the clock and that leads to a fresh defense. This squad is best when they are hiking the football. Keeping the Panthers' high-powered offense off the field is the Warriors' biggest battle.
Players to Watch: It is Miller time! Miller, Elder's senior signal-caller and Wayne quarterback Braxton Miller are arguably Southwest Ohio's two best under the center in 2009. Mark will beat you with his wits and finesse throwing the ball and managing a game. He holds the Elder career-record for touchdown passes. Braxton is a beast, a prototypical Big 10 recruit. The junior has 17 rushing touchdowns on 91 carries.
An intriguing matchup is Panthers' tight end Alex Welch, a Notre Dame recruit, versus linebacker Josh Harrison , a Wisconsin commit. If Harrison can jam Welch off the line it will take away an integral part of the Elder offense. That will be huge if Wayne is to win.
Defensively, there will be some big-time hitting in this contest. Wayne features future University of Michigan stars Terry Talbott and brother Terrence Talbott, one is a hole-plugger up front (Terry) and the other (Terrence) is a lock-down defensive back.
Elder linebackers Corey Mason and Jake Lindsey will have their hands full with the Warriors' backfield. Staying at home is a must for them. In the secondary, don't be surprised if Jake Fishburn comes up with a big outing. It's the post-season and he rarely disappoints in big games.
Team Trends: Wayne has won four in a row in convincing fashion. The Warriors have outscored their last two opponents Springfield and Centerville (both are playoff teams) by seven touchdowns Moeller is the only team to score more than 17 points the last eight week against Elder In a close tilt the Panthers have a secret weapon in kicker Tony Miliano. The senior scored 34 post-season points in five contests with his foot last year in the playoffs.