Morris hoping to chop down Washington
In a lot of ways, Saturday's Class 5A playoff matchup between Morris and Washington boasts teams of similar ilk. Both run defenses that are comparable, both offenses can both spread out a defense or go with the power run and both are friendly.
Well, Friend-ly anyway.
Both the Redskins and Panthers have players whose best players, arguably, have the last name of Friend. Morris defensive end/tight end Danny Friend is a 6-5, 250-pound standout and Washington linebacker/fullback Chris Friend is a 5-9, 220-pound junior.
Washington is a team coached by Darryll Crouch and they play in the Mid-Illini Conference. The Panthers are currently 9-2 on the season with losses to Pekin and Metamora during the regular season, though Washington did come back to beat Metamora in the playoffs. The Panthers are averaging 29 points a game on offense and a stingy total of 11 points per game defensively.
When Washington is on Offense
"They really mix it up. It really is like watching us sometimes," Morris coach Alan Thorson said. "They run out of the I-(formation) — which they are good at running. Against Metamora, they went spread a lot. They even went five-wide at times. Then when they want to pound it, they get into Power-I instead of T. So, there are a lot of similarities with the two programs."
At the start of the season, Washington boasted a starting offensive line that includes a rotation of guys like Zach Skulte (5-11, 225), Austin Miller (6-6, 275), Brock Hoover (6-0, 240), Brogan Brownfield (5-11, 215), Jake Moline (6-0, 250), Josh Fager (5-10, 220) and Chris Sexton (6-1, 215).
Senior Luke Ludolph is a 6-1, 190-pound starting quarterback and his favorite receiver is Brent Brown. Kyle Clark is the team's top returning tight end from 2011.
When Washington is on Defense
The Panthers feature a couple of different looks according to the Morris contingent.
"Looks like on film that they run a four-man front. Other times they will have five," Morris senior offensive lineman Drew Aldrich said. "They walk up their outside backer and their middle linebacker (Friend) is pretty good, so we're going to have to concentrate on him. Their linemen are decent sized and pretty quick. I think we should be fine though."
The defensive line is made up of a combination of Fager, Moline, Sexton and Clark.
"They run a 4-3, but they bring a lot of pressure and give you a lot of looks. They will walk up a backer, they'll move safeties around," Thorson said. "They are a very well coached team. They do a lot of good things.
"You are not always going to see the traditional 4-3 look, you are going to see guys in different gaps. You'll also see linebackers blitzing. It challenges us again on the offensive side. We've got to keep communicating and picking up blitzes. Stuff that we've really done a good job with all year."
Kickoff is set for 3 p.m.
Washington will be one of the longest bus rides of the season that the Redskins will take, and the first of the current playoff season. Still, the team has survived trips as long this season, including to Dixon and Rochelle in the regular season, so they know what to expect.
"It's about a two-hour drive. We need to make sure that we stay focused the whole drive," Aldrich said. "We need to make sure that we come prepared and from the minute we get off the bus, we have to be ready to play the same way we have for the last two weeks. Hopefully the offense will come out and keep doing what we are doing."