North Union football coach Jesse Miller wants his players to form a “Hawks mob” Friday night.
“We’ve got to get a lot of bodies to the point of attack,” said Miller, when asked how his Wildcats will defend the No. 1-ranked Division IV team in Ohio, Hartley’s Hawks.
North Union and Hartley will match 11-0 records in a Region 14 semifinal at 7:30 p.m. Friday on Ohio Wesleyan University’s Selby Field in Delaware.
Miller makes no bones about the fact the Wildcats will have to be on top of their game to derail a Hartley club that whipped Upper Sandusky 63-19 last week in its playoff opener.
“We’ll have to stop the run, run the ball, be perfect on special teams and take care of the football,” Miller said. “We will have to combat their strengths. They have a lot of guys back from last year.”
Last year’s Hawks topped North Union 42-14 in the first round of the playoffs at Hartley.
Hartley, which won the state title two years ago and was a regional finalist in 2011, cranked out 475 yards last week with its speedy wing-T offense.
Senior Marcellus Calhoun led the Hawks with 211 yards on 18 carries and two touchdowns. Ja’Wuan Woodley added 115 yards on 20 trips and scored three TDs.
Woodley, also a senior, carried the ball 23 times for 245 yards and five scores a year ago against North Union.
The Hawks are used to working with short fields on offense as they employ onside kicks after each Hartley score.
North Union is hoping to defend Hartley’s runners as it did Galion’s David Nay last week in a 40-21 playoff victory over the Tigers.
The Wildcats limited Nay, who had gained 1,459 yards heading into the contest, to 25 yards. For the game, Galion gained just 61 rushing yards.
A big thorn in the side of Nay and Galion was North Union lineman Isaiah Blevins, who recorded 10 tackles and four quarterback sacks.
“We did a tremendous job on Nay,” Miller noted. “We needed to take him away first to win the football game, and we were able to shut him down.”
On the other hand, North Union ran wild against Galion, churning out 439 yards on the ground. Kam Smith led the ‘Cats with 207 yards, while Thane Hoffman added 160 behind a dominating offensive line.
“Running the ball, along with playing good defense, is what we hang our hats on,” Miller said. “I can’t say enough about our kids up front (on the offensive and defensive lines). I hope people appreciate how good they are. Their ability to get the push and surge is incredible.”
Hartley made people appreciate how good it is one month ago when it throttled fellow playoff participant Ironton 62-6. Ironton also is playing in a Division IV regional semifinal Friday.
But the Hawks are not only strong on offense. The are a force on defense.
The Hartley defense lines up in a 3-5 set and this season it has allowed more than eight points in a game only three times.
“It’s the same set as the one Galion used, but they don’t move people around in it as much as Galion did,” Miller said.
Miller said last week’s win over Galion, the first playoff victory in North Union history, could provide an emotional lift this week.
“We were excited to be in the position we were in last Friday and to get that legacy,” Miller said. “But don’t take this as if we are satisfied.
“We want to do everything necessary to see this thing goes on. If we take care of ourselves, everything else will take care of itself. We’ve got to be confident and believe.”