FREDERICKTOWN — When the Fredericktown Freddies take the field on Friday night, one thing is for certain — they know who they are. What Fredericktown coach Luke Beal doesn’t know is much about his Division V playoff opponent, the Caldwell Redskins.
He and his staff have scoured film, and prepared their team the best they can. Even still, when the lights come on Friday night, it will be a work in progress.
“We’re not really sure what to expect because we’ve seen so many different things on film,” Beal said. “Later in the season, they have been really throwing the ball. They’ve got a good quarterback and one really dangerous receiver. Their running backs are skilled, so they are not an easy team to defend. They can do a lot of different things, and they can do them pretty well. They run the football well; they’ve shown the capability to throw the football well. The nice thing is in the 10 games that we’ve played, we’ve seen teams that can throw the football well and run the football well. We’ve seen just about anything possible, but they do present some problems. Our defense has to rise to the challenge once again.
“It is hard for us to get a good feel for what they are doing, so we’ve got to be ready for anything and adjust to what their philosophy seems to be as we go through the game.”
Challenges are nothing new to the Freddies, who finished the regular season undefeated. Caldwell, a playoff team in Division VI last season, will present many unique challenges, but Beal expects them to be a solid football team, much like Loudonville was in Week 10.
“I think you have to approach them from the standpoint that they were a playoff team last year and, even though they lost some people, they still have a lot of kids with playoff experience,” said Beal. “They’ve got a great football tradition, and they are coming up here with nothing to lose, which makes them very dangerous. Anybody at this point is in the playoffs for a reason. A few years ago, we were a No. 7 seed and we beat a No. 2 seed, so anybody can beat anybody. We’ve got to make sure we are ready to play. At this point, it doesn’t matter what you’ve done in the regular season. Everybody is starting off on a level playing field, so we’ve got to make sure we are playing our absolute best four quarters every game from here on out.”
Led by quarterback Dylan Sayre, a sophomore, Caldwell has shown a propensity to do a little bit of everything except throw in the kitchen sink. They’ve got talented running backs — seniors Seth Todd, Tyler Schockling, P.J. Clark and Aaron Carpenter — behind Sayre, and skilled wide receivers/split ends — seniors Jacob Border and Bobby Snodgrass and junior Cody Morris — lining up outside. Sayre, however, controls the keys to the engine, so getting to him will be important.
“(The quarterback) doesn’t play like a sophomore,” said Beal. “When you watch him on film, you don’t think he is a young player. He makes good decisions. Pressure is going to be very important because he does have skilled receivers. Anytime you let the quarterback run around and find people, that’s not good for your defense. In a big game like this, we would like to put some pressure on the quarterback and, hopefully, that will help our defense out.”
Defensively, the Redskins are a formidable opponent. They allowed just 12.8 points a game this season, and had two shutouts to their credit. Beal is hoping that the Freddies’ spread attack is more than Caldwell can handle.
“They are big and physical,” Beal said, “but the nice thing is we saw a team that was very physical. Loudonville’s defense was physical and fast, and some of the other teams in our league are that way. Our goals offensively don’t change from week to week. We want to be balanced; we want to try and execute; we want to take what the defense gives us. That’s our goal. We have to be able to run and throw effectively.
“I know when we face teams that run a lot of spread formations, if you can make them one dimensional, it makes them easier to defend, and that’s true with any team,” added Beal. “We try to keep people off balance, and depending on what type of a look that they give us, we’ll take what they give us. Some weeks, we run the ball effectively. If we need to throw, we can; we are blessed to have so many athletes that catch the ball well and run the ball well. That makes it a lot easier as a coach.”
Heading into the game, Beal and his staff have worked to prepare the Freddies for everything they will see and experience, but until kickoff, it is all an educated guess. That’s why he has his team focused on what they do and what they can control.
“For us, it is going to be important to control the tempo of the game and we want to play with confidence,” said Beal. “I think this is a team that has good size, so we need to be physical. We need to play fast and play physical, and not make mistakes. In any big game, most of the time, the team that makes the fewest mistakes is going to win. Hopefully we can control that.
“Special teams is also going to be a factor. Field position is important. It hurt us last week, so we’ve got to do a better job in that area as well.”
Playing one last home game is an incentive for this squad. It is the first Freddie team to ever host a playoff game, which Beal is hoping to use to his advantage.
“I think home field advantage was a big motivator for us, especially going into Week 10,” said Beal. “We knew we had to win to get a home playoff game. I think our seniors were really determined, and had it set in their minds to make sure they played a home playoff game. We had talked back in the summer that if we won our league, that would probably happen. For these kids, this is really special. You could tell that is was really important to them the last couple of weeks. This is something that has never happened here, and the kids are aware of our history and tradition.
“In a practical sense, it is important to play at home in our region because it is so geographically spread out. Anybody that is play us is going to have to drive a long way and vice versa. The nice thing as a coach is this is that many fewer distractions we have. We don’t have to worry about a long bus trip. Playing in our own surroundings and having the great home crowd supporting us are positives.”
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.