NAPOLEON – The biggest game this season will come on Friday for Napoleon as the 3-0 Wildcats, the early season darlings of the Northern Lakes League, will welcome in another undefeated squad in the Perrysburg Yellow Jackets.
“One of the great things about coaching at Napoleon and being in the Northern Lakes League, it just hits you different,” Napoleon coach Tory Strock said of the lead-up to the game. “We’re Division IV and Perrysburg is Division I. If you are a competitor, you love that us-against-the-world mentality. That’s what this is.”
The meeting between the two teams will be the 28th all-time, with Perrysburg holding a slight 14-13 edge. The Yellow Jackets come in winners of six of the last seven games against the Wildcats.
Napoleon is off to a 3-0 start for the first time since 2014. That 2014 team finished 5-5, with a loss to Perrysburg starting the second half decline.
“What we do, is look at past games because if you look at Perrysburg’s coaching staff, there is a lot of continuity there,” remarked Strock. “Two years ago, we beat them here. In our first season in the NLL, we went over and beat them. We also beat them in overtime in 2012. What I like to do, when you look at them, is they still do a lot of the same things on both sides of the ball. What I like to do is go back and revisit those past games and see what our formula was. We absolutely learn from the past. We take both the positive and the negative and try to learn from it.”
Napoleon is coming off a 56-0 win at Maumee, the second shutout the ‘Carts have had in three weeks of action. The defense has been spectacular for Napoleon, holding teams to 112 yards of offense per game.
Line play on both sides of the football has been a key point for Napoleon as well. The Wildcats have 10 sacks on defense, with Seth Muncy and Angelo Gonzalez leading the way with two each.
“We’re right where we want to be,” Strock said of the play on defense for Napoleon so far this season. “We’re deep on the defensive line. We’re more athletic than most. We’re not as big as some of the other NLL teams, but we’re more athletic than most of them and we use that in our favor.”
Conversely, Napoleon has not allowed a sack on offense.
“We pride ourselves on having a quarterback that can get rid of the ball quick,” added the Napoleon coach. “Even times where we’ve had Zack (Rosebrook) set up in the pocket, passes that took a little more time, the protection was outstanding.”
Perrysburg will present a challenge this week for the Napoleon offensive line.
“We’ll see a faster pass rush,” said Strock. “We’re going to be tested in a lot of different ways.”
Napoleon has also found a second back in Michael Chipps. Jarrett Gerdeman leads the team in rushing with 411 yards and 11 scores, but Chipps is right behind with 359 yards and three TDs.
“We’ve got a two-headed monster,” Strock said of his running backs. “A lot of people, their antennas go up when they Gerdeman, and I know he’ll be highlighted on their (Perrysburg) scouting report. Chipps, the thing people don’t talk about is how good of a blocker he is. A lot of Gerdeman’s yardage is talent, but Chipps brings him a lot of times. Chipps doesn’t ask for carries, we reward him with carries because he is such a great blocker. They can key on Gerdeman all they want. Chipps will get loose on them.”
Perrysburg put together its best effort of the season last week in a 54-0 whitewashing of Southview. Like the ‘Cats, Perrysburg had a pair of running backs go for over 100 yards in the lopsided win against the Cougars. Sophomore Connor Walendzak (5-11, 200) ran for 107 yards a pair of scores.
Senior Chris Mason (5-10, 190) was called on to carry the ball three times, but two of his runs were 38 and 84-yard scoring jaunts. His three totes netted 129 yards.
“Walendzak, he’s the real deal,” admitted Strock. “He’s one of the best running backs I’ve seen this year. He’s fast, he’s shifty and he has great vision. He runs low. It’s hard to get a clean shot on him.”
Perrysburg has been running the ball more this year to help ease new quarterback Christian Gulkin (6-0, 185) into the position.
“We want to make them one-dimensional,” Strock said of a game-plan against the Jackets. “We want to make them throw the ball, not that they can’t throw the ball.”