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The Lakeland College football team faces another tough test this week as the Muskies (0-2) close out the non-conference portion of the schedule with a date at UW-Oshkosh on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Titan Stadium in Oshkosh.
The Titans, a 31-10 winner over the Muskies last season, are off to a 2-0 start this season, and according to a preseason poll of the league's eight sports information directors, UWO was picked to finish third in the always tough Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC). The Titans return 15 starters from last year's team that won three of its seven WIAC contests and went 5-5 overall.
"They are a running dominated team," said Lakeland head coach Kevin Doherty. "They are really big up front and have powerful running backs, as well as an experienced quarterback. They are very similar to UW-Whitewater. They just play fundamental football. The one thing that is a big difference is they start 18 seniors, so they are a very experience team."
UWO's running game is explosive. The Titans have been averaging 279 yards rushing per game and are led by senior halfback Andy Moriarty who has been averaging 120.5 yards per game and already has three touchdowns this season. Rookie halfback Jeremy Roach is also off to a stellar start averaging 113.5 yards per game and also has three TDs this season.
Doherty said the Muskies need to "control the controllables" to have success this weekend, which means reducing penalties and turnovers.
"Our defense has to be better on third down, especially third and long," said Doherty. "Our defense has to get their offense off the field. Offensively, we have to score points when we are in the red zone. We have to score more points and be more effective when we have the ball. We have injuries in key positions, which are also hurting us. "
On defense, Lakeland senior safety Cleveland Pierce (Zion, Ill./Zion Benton) returns to the line-up, and Doherty is looking for some big things from him.
Offensively, look for the wide receivers to step up and rebound from some "growing pains" last week. The Muskies strong receiving core of senior MacArthur White (Zion, Ill./Zion-Benton), junior Matt Pawlyk (Marinette/Marinette) and sophomores Isiah Calhoun (Pontiac, Mich./Pontiac Central) and Jake Heinemeyer (Shiocton/Shiocton) could play big roles in this week's outcome.
The Muskies will head into the conference schedule on Sept. 22 as they play at Greenville. Game time is set for 1 p.m. at Francis Field.