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Players and coaches on the
For good reason.
The Muskies (4-4, 4-1 Northern Athletics Conference) hope to keep themselves in contention for a conference championship, win on Senior Day and retake the coveted Cheese Bowl from the Falcons in a 12 p.m. start at Taylor Memorial Field.
"You take the rivalry, what the game means to the seniors and what it means for our conference title chase, and you've got by far the biggest game of the year for us," Lakeland head coach Kevin Doherty said. "We need to come out of it healthy and with a win, and then we'll worry about the final game."
The Muskies also hope to take back the Cheese Bowl, the trophy held annually by the winner of this rivalry match-up. Concordia has held it for the last two years, and has won seven of the last eight contests against
"If we win this game, it's another stepping stone to make it to the playoffs, and to the next game against
This year's Muskie seniors hope to take that trophy back in front of family, friends and students in the final home game of their careers.
"I would say it's the biggest game of my career since I've been here," senior linebacker Brent Miller said. "We've never been in the position that if we were going for the conference championship, we've never had to directly win out or be eliminated. Bringing the Cheese Bowl back would be the biggest win of my career."
Last week, the Muskies scored 23 unanswered points to turn a 14-6 deficit after three quarters into a 29-14 victory at Maranatha Baptist. The
"Our defense is really starting to turn it on," Doherty said. "If they keep playing with the same confidence, desire and heart that they've played with in the last two weeks, I would feel really good about that."
Offensively, the Muskies got off to a slow start in the first half, turning the ball over twice and losing the ball on downs on a pair of drives. Players and coaches emphasized the importance of getting off to a fast start against the Falcons this Saturday.
"This week, we need to come out firing," said Pawlyk, who had seven receptions for 164 yards and two scores at Maranatha. "We just need to make a connection, fire out on all cylinders on offense and get it rolling right away so we can put some points on the board, instead of waiting until late to finally connect."
Momentum will be critical for
"We've got to get momentum early - our young kids thrive on momentum," Doherty said. "So we need to score some points early on, have confidence in what we're doing and just keep playing Muskie football."
The game between the two rivals will be filled with emotion, with the team that does the little things most likely to come out on top.
"I think it's going to be a good, close game, so it possibly could be the team that turns the ball over the fewest times, has the fewest penalties or the best field position that wins the game," Doherty said.
The scouting report: Concordia
Last Saturday, CUW scored 24 unanswered points en route to a 46-13 victory over Concordia Chicago in
The Falcons, who lead the NAC in rushing on the season, piled up 268 yards on the ground, with three players gaining 47 yards or more. Stopping the run against the Falcons' double-slot, wing-T formation will be key to a Muskie victory.
"We've got to really attack," Miller said. "We've got to beat them to where they want to go. If we let them get to us first, it's going to be tough to stop. So we've got to attack and beat them to the spot."
Doherty noted the importance of containing the running game as well as Falcons wide receiver Taylor Siolka, who leads the league with over six receptions per game.
"They've got exceptional speed, so we really have to be able to tackle in the open field and not give them the perimeter in the running game," Doherty said. "They've also got a real good receiver in Siolka, so we've got to be able to contain him and force their quarterback to be perfect when they throw the ball."
Defensively, the Falcons bring an experienced, hard-nosed front seven.
"They're very aggressive up front," Doherty said. They've got five to six starters back from last year's team, predominantly in the front seven. Their linebackers are very good and they play down hill. If we don't have our heads up and communicate, it can pose some problems for us."
Last season, the Falcons defeated the Muskies 35-28 on Oct. 20, 2007, in