“And we don’t plan on losing there this week,” Perkins coach Jason Ziegler said.
The Pirates haven’t just won at home … they’ve won by wide margins on a consistent basis, including scoring 65 and 73 points this season against winless foes Fostoria and Port Clinton. In 11 games at home since last season, the Pirates have outscored teams 519-154 (47-14 average).
Needless to say, the state-ranked Pirates (10-0) are excited to be at home for Friday’s 7:30 p.m. Division III Region 8 quarterfinal against visiting Napoleon (6-4) in the No. 3 vs. 6 matchup in the region.
“We have had great success here, and last year we had to make the long trip to Urbana (42-14 win in first round),” Ziegler said. “It’s just a distraction a little bit, but the outcome is you get there and you play. It will be the same for Napoleon. It’s a bit of a drive, but when you get on the field that all is set aside.
“Friday will be nice for our fans,” Zielger added. “We should have a good crowd. We’ve had a great following with good community support and a strong student section, and we expect it to be packed. We’re still striving to play that perfect game, and hopefully we will this Friday.”
While the Wildcats come into the game with four losses, the Pirates are entertaining a program steeped in playoff experience. This will be Napoleon’s 12th playoff appearance, including nine trips in the previous 13 seasons.
A year ago they finished regional runners-up to Bellevue. This season, the Wildcats played three playoff teams on the schedule, and played up a division in enrollment five times, while playing once in a division below them (Div. IV playoff foe Wauseon).
“You can tell they are well-coached and they have playoff experience. This isn’t something new to them,” Ziegler said of the Wildcats.
“You watch them on film, you can tell they are a physical team. They have some solid running backs who are very good and some big kids up front.
“Defensively, they have an All-Ohio linebacker back. He’s a solid player. And despite four losses, they have played some very good teams. We’ve gotten to watch them against solid programs, and when you get in the playoffs, no team is easy. We have to be on our game and play well.”
The Pirates have spent the previous two weeks adjusting to a new quarterback, among other positions, because of injury. Starting QB David Doster (452 passing yards, 8 TDs) suffered an ACL injury in Week 8 vs. Margaretta and is out for the remainder of the season. The same goes for Devin Dubbert, who was starting on offense, defense and special teams.
At QB, Matt Schweinfurth is the new starter, and has gone 8-of-14 passing for 121 yards and a TD in two games.
“We don’t have our QB obviously, and that hurts. David is a team captain and a great player for us,” Ziegler said. “But Matt has had the opportunity the past two weeks and will continue to do that. He’s been starting on defense since Week 5, so he knows how to play in big games. He’s a good player who is smart and makes good reads and does things he needs to do.
“Losing Dubbert, who starts three areas for us, was another big loss. These last couple weeks we’ve have had to have kids step up and doing that. We have to continue to get better each week.”
Ziegler said the setbacks are nothing new for the players this season.
“The thing is, we’ve been dealing with adversity since the summer started with pay to play ($730 per player), losing our team captain on defense (Tony Didion) in the first game … then you lose David and another solid kid in Devin,” Ziegler said. “And you can go back to even the Clyde game (battle of unbeatens, Oct. 4) with the stuff that went on there (two game delays). We’ve had adversity all year, but this is a good group, especially our seniors. They are winners, I’m just excited and proud to be their coach.”
One subject Ziegler said has not been discussed as motivation or for anything else is the end of last season’s playoffs. The Pirates were winners of 10 straight, and were one play away from facing Napoleon last season for a spot in the state semifinals.
However, a wild turn of events saw Bellevue beat Perkins on the game’s final play, 28-27, and the Redmen instead went on to face the Wildcats.
“It honestly doesn’t even come to mind,” Ziegler said. “I’ve said it before, last year was a totally different team. We were a different type of team. The simple fact is, these are different players.
“These guys take it one game at a time like last year, but we don’t look backwards, we continue to look forward. That is great thing about this team and coaching staff. They all strive to get better each day, and the kids have done a great job of doing that.”