Survive and advance the name of the game as football sectionals get underway tonight

Teams will be playing like there’s no tomorrow — because if they lose, there’s not — as the state football tournament opens tonight.
Culver Community and Bremen will host sectional foes South Central (Union Mills) and Manchester, in the Class A and 2A tournaments, while LaVille travels to No. 7 Whiting in a Sectional 41 match-up on the road.

LaVILLE (5-4) at CLASS A No. 7 WHITING (8-1)
If you want to win a sectional championship, you’ll have to beat the best anyway, so why not play them first? That’s the approach LaVille is taking against 8-1 Class A No. 7 Whiting in the Lancers’ Sectional 41 opener on the road tonight.
“I view this game as a game that we’re really lucky to have the opportunity to go play. You can look at the draw one of two ways — negatively, that we got a top team and one of the better teams in our sectional, or as I told the kids this week if I’m looking at the sectional we’ve got to take it one game at a time, and we’re the worst draw for whatever team we get,” said LaVille football coach Will Hostrawser. “If we show up and we play ball I’m comfortable saying that we can play against anybody. I’m just happy to have the opportunity to play a top 10 team and potentially knock them out. It’s a great opportunity for our kids and our program, and we’re going to try to take full advantage of it.”
LaVille enters tonight’s sectional match-up coming off a disappointing regular season-ending loss against Culver Community last week. The Lancers racked up 334 offensive yards but gave up 276 yards on the other side of the ball in the eventual 43-36 loss, and Hostrawser says his team will have to shore up its defense if it hopes to upset the Oilers.
“I think offensively we ran the ball extremely well. Any time you get up over 300 yards of ground and pound, I think that’s really good. Offensively I think we played very physical on the line of scrimmage so I think it was a good ball game for that, but as good as we were offensively, defensively we thought that was one of our poorest games tackling all season,” said the Lancers boss. “We’ve worked really hard on that this week and just the fundamentals and getting back to basics. Hopefully that’ll assist us moving forward.”
Complicating the defensive task will be a varied Whiting offense that can out-scheme opponents and score in a variety of ways.
“They spread the ball out all over the place. They run a variety of different formations,” said Hostrawser. “They throw the ball well, they run the ball well. They’re ranked No. 7 in the state for a reason. So we’re going to have to be able to defend the pass, and we’re going to have to tackle much better than we did last week against Culver in order to stand any chance.”

Culver has had its fair share of struggles this season. The Cavs suffered through a five-game losing streak from Weeks 5 through 8 but kept right on working despite the lack of results. Last Friday they finally snapped the skid with a come-from-behind 43-36 win on the road at LaVille. Which brings its own challenges, says head coach Andy Thomas.
“Our challenge this week has now been to learn how to handle success,” said Thomas. “Coming to work has been tough after some tough situations for about a month. Now we’ve had a little bit of success and we wanted to make sure we were handling things right, and our kids did that. This was definitely a four-day process this week. It took all four days to get things where we wanted them on both sides of the ball and special teams, but the kids did a good job like they have all year.”
Speaking of success, the last time Culver played South Central (Union Mills) way back in Week 2, the Cavs came away with a 32-21 victory. But with new players in the lineup in tonight’s match-up in Culver, the Cavalier coaching staff isn’t taking anything for granted. It’s been an easy sell to the players, too, says Thomas.
“They’re going to be a lot better than when we played them the first game. They’ve got two or three guys back on both sides of the ball, most notably their quarterback. He’s an outstanding player — runs it well, throws it well, is very hard to tackle on offense, and he’s a very good player for them on defense. It’s going to be a completely different team than what we played before. They also have a wide out that’s very good, and a lot of guys that run the ball well, and they’re very good up front on both sides of the ball. We’ve got our work cut out for us,” said the Culver skipper.
“I’m not worried about our kids thinking that it’s going to be an easy game because we beat them in Week 2. They know that the guys they’ve got back are going to make a big difference. We’re not having to convince our kids that they’re not going to need to practice hard or play hard. We put the tape in, and it’s pretty easy to see what kind of team they are now.”
Aiding the Cavs in their cause is the home field draw, and Culver is hoping to parlay that home field advantage into a win and a spot opposite either Triton or West Central in the second week of playoffs.
“It’s nice to play at home. Our fans, our parents, the people in the administration have been great to us all year long,” said Thomas. “It’s nice to be in our own routine and be on our home field again. We definitely feel it’s an advantage for us.”

BREMEN (6-3) vs MANCHESTER (3-6)
Last Friday, the Lions played an emotional second half in their regular season-closer with John Glenn, shutting out the Falcons 21-0 after the break en route to a 42-14 final. Bremen head coach Bob Holmes is hoping to see some of the same fire this week against Manchester, but he’s hoping his team won’t wait so long to show it.
“We talked about the intangibles to the John Glenn game. We played an emotional football half where we really got excited about what we were doing,” said Holmes. “Sometimes it’s not about the Xs and Os, it’s intangibles. The last week I thought we really found out how important those were in the second half. We need to play with that type of emotion in this game from the get-go and not wait until halftime for those things to show up. Football’s an emotional game, and you have to be able to play with it and get excited about what you’re doing.”
Bremen will need to defend against the option, and, like last week, will look to control the clock. Fortunately for the Lions, they’ve had plenty of on-field looks against the option this season, and they’ll look to bring that experience to bear tonight.
“They run a lot of option so we’re going to have to play very good assignment football this week,” said Holmes. “That’s something that requires discipline. We’ve been getting better at it each week; we’ve played a lot of teams that like to run the option. So I’d say we’re prepared for it, we just have to execute and play very good assignment football and contain their quarterback and hopefully control the ball on offense and keep their offense off the field.”
Like Culver, Bremen is hoping to capitalize on home field advantage tonight as well.
“Playing at home is always an advantage. You want to go through the routines of playing in your own backyard. This is our second home game in a row. We’re looking forward to it; there’s no doubt about it,” said Holmes.

In other area action…
Three other area teams will try to bounce back from regular season-closing losses last Friday in tonight’s sectional openers.
Culver Military (5-4) will try to rebound from last week’s 28-12 loss at Fairfield in which the Eagles found themselves short-handed as they host 3A Sectional 26 rival Twin Lakes (5-4) in a match-up at Rochester with construction continuing at Oliver Field. John Glenn (1-8) also looks to bounce back in a 3A Sectional 25 contest at Mishawaka Marian (4-5) after letting a manageable 21-14 halftime deficit become a sound 42-14 defeat at Bremen last week. Triton (2-8) suffered a 56-0 trouncing at the hands of NSC powerhouse Jimtown, and the Trojans are looking to put the past behind them at West Central (6-3) in Sectional 41 action.