PLAYOFF PREVIEW (ONT – WATERLOO): Highlanders’ running game, defensive front will be crucial

The senior boys Sir John A. MacDonald Highlanders are hoping to progress further in the playoffs after a dominant 52-20 win against the Elmira Lancers last week in the Quarter-finals. Their opponent this week is the Preston Panthers, who they haven’t played against this season.

“We haven’t played Preston High School yet this season, but we’re very familiar as we usually play them each year,” said Highlanders’ Head Coach Josh Alexander. “They are always well prepared and play extremely hard. Their coaches do a great job. They’ll be ready and it will be a great challenge for us.”

There are a couple areas of their team where they shine the most, which are their running game and defensive front.

“We’ve been having a lot of success on the ground and have been strong against the run on D,” stated Alexander. “We have a veteran front led by fifth years’ Ben Petrie and Josiah Callender. Bryce Bell is a grade 12 who has started and been great for us since grade 11. These men have a lot to do with moving the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.”

Some players on the Highlanders don’t have a lot of experience when it comes to big games, while others do.

“We have a number of returning grade 11’s who lost in the semis last year, so should we make it to the finals, nobody will have been there,” commented Alexander. “At the same time, we have a number of rep players and high-level players in other
sports who have been in big games. I think they’ll be ready if the time comes.”

Alexander is hoping that they get significant contributions from numerous players.

“We’ve been getting great contributions from a number of players and I’m hopeful that continues,” said Alexander. “I always tell them that for us to move on in the playoffs, the guys whose names are usually in the paper, need to be in the paper the next day. I’m
excited to see who steps up.”

There are a couple areas of the Panthers’ game that they will have to watch out for.

“They have a great passing game and a strong defence,” stated Alexander. “We need to be sure to use great technique in our pass coverage and we have to get pressure on the QB. Offensively we need to establish the run and win up front.”

The Highlanders will try to prevent them from making big plays.

“I’d say we’re most focused on the big play,” commented Alexander. “We want to force them to go the entire field. We don’t want to give up the big play on D or special teams.”

Alexander believes that there will be a few factors that will decide the outcome of this week’s game.

“We talk all the time about the keys to victory, and we believe they are penalties, turnovers and mental mistakes,” said Alexander. “We need to take care of the ball on offence and in the return game, and we need to attack the football on D. We can’t afford to be lazy and take holding calls or blocks in the back, and we have to be mentally focused. It’s football: one game, 48 minutes. Whoever is dialed in the most usually moves on. There’s no tomorrow.”

The Semi-finals matchup between Sir John A. MacDonald and Preston will take place on the Highlanders home turf on Tuesday, November 10 at 7:00pm.

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