WIAA football: Jets prepared for balanced Mustangs

WIAA football: Jets prepared for balanced Mustangs

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WIAA football: Jets prepared for balanced Mustangs

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Despite being the No. 1 seed in its regional, the Roncalli football team will play tonight’s WIAA State Football Level 2 Division 4 playoff game at No. 5 Little Chute.

WIAA rules state a team that wins on the road in Level 1 gets a home game for Level 2, if the higher seeded team already hosted an opener.

Jets coach Ray Baranczyk, though, isn’t all that concerned.

“I don’t think homefield advantage has as much of an effect at the high school level as it does the college or pros,” Baranczyk said. “When we’re playing, I don’t think the players could even tell you what’s being said or chanted by the crowd. They’re focused on how they’re playing, not where.”

What causes him more consternation than what the fans will chant is what will happen on the field when Roncalli (10-0) and an experienced Little Chute (7-3) squad meet. The Mustangs return several players from last year’s team that reached Level 3 a season ago, and a balanced offensive attack led by quarterback Sam Merryfield.

“Anytime a team makes it to Level 3 and brings back kids who know what it takes to move along, you know it’ll be a tough contest,” Baranczyk said.

Merryfield has thrown for 1,611 yards over the course of the campaign with 12 touchdowns and six interceptions according to WisSports.Net, which in and of itself might not be cause for concern. What adds to the potency is a ground game which has tallied 1,660 yards while crossing the goal line 24 times.

Baranczyk was able to watch Little Chute play Peshtigo last Friday while the Mustangs returned the favor during the Jets’ win over Chilton the day. Watching the team live as opposed to on tape, Baranczyk says, gave him several valuable insights.

“(Little Chute) really wants to stretch us out in the passing game and get us out of base defense,” Baranczyk noted. “(Merryfield) likes to use shotgun and a has a very quick release so we’ll need to create a quick rush to get into his face and force bad decisions. We have some tricks though to put him in a bind …we need to turn the edge a lot quicker than them and force them inside.”

Despite the Mustangs’ up-tempo offense not being something the Jets routinely face, Roncalli has played similar offenses within the last month in Southern Door and Kewaunee. Baranczyk is confident in his defense’s ability to step up to the task.

“They pose a little bit more of a challenge for us,” Baranczyk added. “Most teams like to power the ball right up the middle which actually works into our favor defensively. Little Chute likes to use their speed to get to the edges, not unlike our own offense.”

When it comes to the Jets’ offense, the Mustangs can expect a heavy dose of Joey Macdonald, who led the Olympian-Packerland Large Conference in rushing and has tallied 1,209 yards on the season along with 18 scores.

Roncalli threw the ball 55 times out of 526 total plays from scrimmage, or just over 10 percent of the time. The yards back up the skewed rushing/passing ratio with gaining 2,978 yards on the ground compared to 533 through the air.

It’s this type of steady ground game which has Baranczyk preaching fundamentals to his players.

“Little Chute runs a similar defense to ours but I expect them to come out in something drastically different to try and stop our rushing attack,” Baranczyk said. “Since we don’t know what they’ll be coming out in, our linemen just need to engage in the type of blocks they’ve been doing all year and our backs to follow them blocks. It’s the time of the year when we have to have have faith in our execution…if we don’t beat ourselves we make their job that much tougher.”

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