DANVILLE — For the Fredericktown football team, this is its biggest test so far this year.
For Danville’s players, it’s a chance to see how far they’ve come.
The Freddies and the Blue Devils face off Friday at Danville at 7 p.m. in the Game of the Week.
Until last week, this was marked as a battle between two unbeatens. Danville, however, fell in their last contest, a 20-14 heartbreaker to then-winless Loudonville. The game ended with an interception and a Blue Devil defense which had lost its strength.
But to Danville head coach Ed Honabarger, his team lost because they were missing the fundamentals.
“We had been playing with fire,” Honabarger said. “We’d had some close games, and it finally cost us.”
They’ve had a week to work on those fundamentals. Fredericktown coach Bryan Baum knows his opponents will be ready.
“[Danville] is a well-coached team,” Baum said. “They execute well. They come right after you.”
Fredericktown is coming off a 55-3 drubbing of Northridge. The Freddies racked up 391 total yards and allowed 106, including only seven yards on the ground.
“They’re having another great year,” Honabarger said. “They’re different offensively, pounding the ball a little bit more. And they have a lot of big play threats.”
Danville’s biggest concern is how to stop Fredericktown’s Matt Smith. Smith has 699 yards on the ground in only four games, averaging nearly 11 yards every time he touches the ball. He’s found the end zone eight times. Smith’s partner in the backfield is fullback Austin Hoeflich, who’s scored five touchdowns himself.
“Smith has some moves. He’s a tough running back. A lot of his success comes from our offensive line,” Baum said.
“We’ve got to get a lot of people on the ball,” Honabarger said. “They have a tendency to make big plays. We need to hit the pursuit angles, or we’ll be in trouble.”
In the air, Fredericktown goes with a two-headed attack. Senior Tyler Hathaway is a marksman as a passer, having completed 80 percent of his throws. He’s relieved by sophomore Ryan Logan, a taller and more physical quarterback with a strong arm.
“Logan heads our run package,” Baum said. “At times we get a little heavy with the run. We want to mix in some more passing. We have a lot of nice receivers in [Nathan] Cubbage, Hathaway, Logan and [Tony] Lybarger, and a lot of teams focus on them. So we run it. If they load up in the box, we’ve got those nice athletes to go to.”
Danville counters with the return of starting QB Marcus Durbin. Durbin missed last week’s game with a sore ankle. Shaun Durbin, who operates a similar wildcat-style offense, filled in against Loudonville.
“His ankle’s better. Hopefully, he’ll do well,” Honabarger said. “But if we don’t block, we won’t move the ball.”
The Blue Devils feature multiple weapons on offense. Heath Buckingham has been the main breadwinner, with 268 yards on the ground and three touchdowns. Zach Brewer leads all receivers with seven catches and three touchdowns. Brewer also has an 80-yard punt return for a touchdown on his resume.
“We try to get everyone involved. From Zack to Buckingham to the rest. We don’t want the defense to key in on one guy. We try to spread the ball around,” Honabarger said.
They’ll have to spread it around against Fredericktown. Their defensive front is led by Hoeflich, who leads the Freddies with 20 solo tackles and three sacks. Likewise Hathaway, Joey Burns, Bryce Yarman and Nick Stacy all have multiple tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
The Blue Devils counter with a fierce 4-4 defense designed to attack the offense. Joey Gonzales leads all defenders with eight solo tackles, two for losses. Quinton Ferenbaugh, Derek Baker and Buckingham are also solid.
“This is our biggest test of the year [for our defense],” Honabarger said. “This is the best offensive line we’ve had to face. And that running back combination. Hopefully, we show up for it.”
Danville has scored many of its points late in each half. Fredericktown is relentless, taking big early leads and not letting up.