This was a tricky week for my dad and I to select a game. Looking at the list of games over the summer nothing really jumped out at us this week, so we decided that it would be best to wait and see how the playoff chase was forming. Six wins guarantee teams a spot in the playoffs and if your team has had a slip up early in the season the heat really gets turned up around week seven. The pressure to get to six wins makes games intense sometimes beyond a select few teams’ conference championship aspirations. At the beginning of every season as a coach you look at the schedule and sort of circle the games you must have if you want to make the playoffs. Everyone wants to win them all but in reality looking at the schedule from an honest and probably harsher point of view, coaches will pick out a handful of games that really make or break the season.
This week we are going to watch Vicksburg at Paw Paw. Paw Paw has lost three games on the year and need to win out to get to six wins. It’s not to say they won’t make it in if they don’t win out but playing the playoff points game is tricky and you just never know where you are until the state calls you with the good news. Paw Paw lost a game to their conference juggernaut Edwardsburg who is undefeated this year and has already amassed 266 total points on offense for the year. Edwardsburg was favored to win and their wing t offense has rolled over local teams for the past few years now, so it wasn’t much of a surprise. The other two losses came against similar offensive style teams in Three Rivers and Sturgis. Three Rivers is having a great year only one win away from the playoffs, while Sturgis is a middle of the road team this year and unlikely to make the postseason. It’s unique to point out that these teams are spread teams a moniker that used to highlight Paw Paw’s offense, but not any more. This is the first year of Paw Paw’s new look under head coach Matt Stephens who was also the head coach for Mattawan and Bangor high schools. Matt Stephens has pulled in the reigns on the spread formations and locked his kids into the old wing t. It feels as though I have talked about the wing t to the point of exhaustion on this website and yet here it is again. I think the thing I’m looking forward to seeing most with Paw Paw in this game is the players and fans reception to a ground based attack that while deceptive, it isn’t always the most fan friendly. I’ve seen even the oldest of wing t fans sit through a Friday night and never have the slightest idea who had the ball. It’s tough to cheer for a touchdown that you didn’t see. Or better yet the fan that is used to a spread team that throws the ball more times in one game then a wing t team likely might attempt in an entire season. It’s going to be unique to see how the players respond from a system that breathes open space to one that creates it in even the slimmest of spaces. Irregardless of what they do on offense, Paw Paw still plays good defense and in two of their losses they held their opponent to just fourteen points, but their offense struggled. I’m having a difficult time finding videos of Paw Paw this year and or old Mattawan games from when Stephens was there, but according to a great article written in the Paw Paw Courier Leader, Stephens plans to run a 3-5-3 defense which is really geared to stopping spread teams like Vicksburg.
Vicksburg has only lost one game this year and it was to Edwardsburg, a team that runs the same offense as Paw Paw. It was exceptionally difficult to find any footage of Vicksburg playing defense against a wing t team. The fact I waited so long to select a game for this week probably didn’t help my chances of finding a video either. Wing t teams often force defenses to alter their look a bit and load the box in hopes of stopping the run. I can’t imagine the Bulldogs will be any different. Without the video though I can’t really say how Vicksburg will line up on D other than there will likely be a lot of people close to the line of scrimmage. On offense they will come out in a gun or pistol look with two or more wide outs almost all the time. The pistol formation is the one I like most when watching them because of the quickness their running backs show straight ahead. I especially like one particular play that is a complimentary play off of a straight dive look where the quarterback pulls the ball and follows a pulling lineman that logs the last defender on the line of scrimmage, enabling the qb to run around the end. I find it unique that instead of trapping the end defender the offense anticipates the D collapsing on the running back and making their ability to contain the ball vulnerable by going too far inside. It is a wonderful play that is a staple in pistol offenses and it is one that has been highlighted on this site before, when I discussed the uniqueness of Muskegon Mona Shores pistol offense.
The game should be close and intense with a trip to the playoffs on the line. Paw Paw coach Matt Stephens is also an alumni of Vicksburg and although that isn’t going to impact the game at all, it adds a colorful bit of flare to the game for fans.
I’ll be eating at Amore Pizza before the game. It’s really good pizza and I’ve always enjoyed myself when eating there. I apologize for the short write up this week, but being pressed for time it and having a surprising lack of resources it was the best I could do. If you have a question I would love to answer it in the comments section or if you’re out in Paw Paw this Friday don’t be shy.