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There is a lot at stake this week as the Lakeland football team prepares for its inaugural Northern Athletics Conference opener against Rockford College (0-3 overall, 0-0 NAC) this Saturday at Taylor Memorial Field at 1 p.m.
The Muskies (0-3, 0-0) are seeking their first win of the 2008 season after emerging from their non-conference slate without a tally in the left-hand column for the second consecutive year.
On Saturday, Sept. 20 against
"We got some good things going in the first half against Carthage, and kind of slowed down again in the second half," junior fullback Blaine Hornes said. "
By the time the team hits the field on Saturday, it will have been two weeks since the last contest due to a bye week. Players and coaches noted the importance of the off week to heal minor injuries and recover physically, but are also more than ready to restart competition.
"I think they're eager, they're ready to play,"
In addition, the league opener is also the team's Homecoming game. Players and coaches are expecting a big crowd as
Among those in attendance will be members of the 1997 Lakeland football team, which was the most recent squad in school history to finish a season undefeated (10-0). That team's record-setting quarterback, Mark Novara '98, will be inducted into the Lakeland Athletic Hall of Fame in a ceremony to be held Friday night.
"A lot of those great players from the late '90s are going to be back on our campus, and they're going to want to see a nice product out on the field," Doherty said. "So I think it adds a little bit of pressure, a little bit of anxiety for the program, but that's why you play the game. In 10 years, our guys would love to be the team that comes back and it'd be the same thing."
Sophomore running back Ben Lombardi (Whitewater) said that while it will be a special time for many, the team will approach the actual game as if it is no more important than any other.
"We should win every game, that's the way I look at it, we go in looking to win every game," Lombardi said. "We shouldn't need any extra motivation other than that. We're trying to win a championship, so we should win every game."
To win the game, the Muskies will need their running game to catch up with the passing game. While
"We need to do a lot better job protecting him from the pass rush," Lombardi said. "If we get the running game going too, and that's partly the running backs' fault, that can slow up the rush on him as well."
It will also allow Dworak to make use of two of his finest weapons, senior wide receiver Matt Pawlyk (Marinette) and junior wide receiver Jake Heinemeyer (Shiocton).
"Hopefully we can get things going on the ground and that's just going to open up more things for our receivers so we can make some big play," said Hornes, a
All in all, it will be important for the offense to put points on the board.
"Offensively, we've got to have a break-out week," Doherty said. "This has got to be the week where we come out of our shell."
The scouting report:
After trailing just 17-14 at the half, the Regents surrendered 28 third-quarter points en route to the defeat.
According to Doherty, the Regents run a number of misdirection plays out of the double-slot wing 'T' formation, one that the Muskie defense is unfamiliar with.
"It's a little bit different than weeks past, we've had to worry about defending an empty backfield and a lot of passing and things like that, and now it's kind of the opposite," Doherty said. "They really have a commitment to running the football, and they can do some things that could cause us confusion. So if you don't play good assignment football, they can get a big play on you. We've got to be disciplined in that aspect."
"I think the first few series, we'll kind of be feeling each other out a little bit and how they're going to line up to certain formations," Doherty said. "They've got some young guys on defense like we do on offense, so I think that should be kind of the tell of the tape this week, is how our offensive line does against their front seven. We've just got to play mistake-free football and win the turnover battle."
The Regents enter the Northern Athletics Conference from the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference.