Muskies fired up for Cheese Bowl
Athletics - posted on 11/4/2009
Different year, same meaning.
When the Lakeland College football team (4-4, 4-1 Northern Athletics Conference) travels to Mequon this Saturday for the annual Cheese Bowl against Concordia, Wis. (4-4, 4-1), bragging rights won't be the only thing on the line; the winner will be positioned for a potential NAC championship.
"This is always big game regardless of record," Lakeland head coach Kevin Doherty said. "They're a big rival from a proximity standpoint, and in the past years it's always been a fun game. Although we're adversaries, we are pretty similar in the types of football we play. After the game, it's a neat feeling, win or lose, given the respect that both programs have for each other."
Both teams are currently tied atop the NAC standings with Concordia University Chicago after CUC beat Concordia, Wis., last weekend, 22-21 in double overtime. Should the Muskies win their final two games, they will still someone to beat Concordia Chicago to win the NAC's automatic bid to the NCAA Division III playoffs. CUC holds the tiebreaker with Lakeland thanks to a 41-32 win over the Muskies earlier this season.
"This game is huge," senior linebacker Jamie Schramm said. "This game is everything to us. It's the cheese bowl, a chance to get a playoff spot and a chance to beat Concordia Wisconsin."
Lakeland will be looking to keep the Cheese Bowl trophy for the second consecutive season after losing seven of the last eight contests before last season's dominating 37-7 victory.
"It's the biggest game of the year," senior offensive lineman Ben Stellmacher said. "We need to win out to have a shot at the conference championship and it's the biggest game of our careers."
Concordia, Wis., is coming off a heartbreaking loss that saw Concordia Chicago convert a two-point conversion in the second OT to secure the one-point win. The Falcons have dealt with injuries at quarterback, including starter Thomas Pacchioli who has been sidelined recently with a knee injury. Pacchioli returned against CUC to throw for 136 yards and a touchdown in the loss.
The uncertainty at quarterback for the Falcons hasn't fazed the Lakeland coaching staff this week during preparation.
"It doesn't really give us problems," Doherty said. "We have to prepare more for their scheme instead of planning around a particular player. Regardless of which quarterback is playing, they're still going to run the same pass combinations and try to attack our defense in the same manner. We have to recognize what quarterback is in the game and what strength they possess."
Lakeland's defense will be asked again to keep Concordia's running game in check. The Muskies have allowed just 151 rushing yards in five NAC games this season, and have held opponents to just two touchdowns on the ground in conference play. The Falcons have three players with over 144 rushing yards this season and have 11 more rushing yards than they do passing yards this season.
On offense, the Muskies will look to move the ball against a Concordia defensive unit that is ranked second in pass defense in NAC games, giving up an average of 132.8 yards in the air. NAC rushing leader Jeremy Williams, a sophomore for the Muskies, will be a key this week as Lakeland will look to balance its offensive attack.
"Concordia is sound and aggressive on defense," Doherty said. "They're one of the most physical defenses we'll see all season. They like to bring a lot of pressure and are very athletic in their front seven. We need to take advantage of the opportunities that are given to us and we have to execute.
"This is a big game, no doubt about it. They're coming off of their first loss against a team that beat us as well, so there's some pride at stake along with potential conference implications. You throw all of that into a pot, and it makes for a great Saturday."
Last week, the Muskies shut down Maranatha Baptist in a 19-0 win on a mud-laden field. Senior Receiver Jacob Heinemeyer scored touchdowns on passes of 36 and 26 yards, and Williams pounded out a five-yard TD seconds before halftime as Maranatha was held to just 29 yards on offense and stepped foot into Lakeland territory on just two drives.
"Our guys really played well against some tough field conditions," Doherty said. "We had mistakes on offense that I wasn't happy with, like dropping passes, but a lot of that can be contributed to how bad the field was.
"The defense has played great two straight weeks in a row, and I'm happy with how they go after an offense and shut them down. We're really pleased with where the team is at psychologically heading into the weekend."
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