Wildcats meet Redskins with second-place riding on outcome
f tonight’s football games carry a lot of weight for area teams hoping to improve their position in the conference and improving their chances of qualifying for the state playoffs next month.
Three Rivers visits Paw Paw in search of its fourth win of the season.
Kick-off time is 7 p.m. at Falan Field.
Currently, Three Rivers (3-1) and Paw Paw (3-1) are tied for second place in the Wolverine Conference standings behind unbeaten co-leaders Vicksburg (4-0) and Edwardsburg (4-0).
The Wildcats and Redskins are both coming off impressive victories a week ago. Three Rivers whipped Otsego 47-10 and Paw Paw disposed easily of South Haven 49-0.
Three Rivers has won the last two meetings with Paw Paw, including a 14-0 win at Armstrong Field in 2016.
The lone loss for Three Rivers this season was a 21-7 setback to Dowagiac in week two. Paw Paw’s lone blemish was a 52-0 setback against Edwardsburg.
Three Rivers’ defensive unit has been solid yielding 53 points in four games. Paw Paw has allowed 66 points.
Three Rivers head coach J.J. Wagner, now in his 12th season as Wildcats’ head coach, stresses the importance of this week.
“Offensively Paw Paw runs the Wing-T similar to Edwardsburg and defensively they’ll run a 4-3 and sometimes a 5-3. They have big and physical kids. The past few years we’ve had some low-scoring and close games. We’re expecting the same thing this year,” Wagner said.
“This is an important game for both teams. Our strength on defense has been stopping the run. That’s what Paw Paw does 93 percent of the time based on the film we’ve watched on them. We have to be able to contain their backs.”
Paw Paw, who is coached by Matt Stephans, had two tailbacks pile up over 100 yards rushing in last week’s win over South Haven.
Nick Schley led the Redskins’ ground game with nine carries for 147 yards and three touchdowns, including a 73-yard scoring dash. Tyler Pursley added six carries for 121 yards and one TD. Jimmy Wressell ran three times for 43 yards and another score.
Quarterback Hayden Beck completed 4-of-6 passes for 64 yards and another score, a 39-yard TD reception to Wressel.
While the ground game has been Paw Paw’s forte on offense, Three Rivers has dissected opposing defenses through the air with its potent spread offense.
Three Rivers junior quarterback Jalen Heivilin has completed 56-of-85 passes for 882 yards and 12 TDs with just two interceptions. He has also rushed for three TDs.
Heivilin’s leading receiver is junior classmate Bryce Morlan with 18 receptions for 353 yards and nine TDs.
But the ‘Cats aren’t one dimensional by any means in its passing attack.
Junior slotback Gavin Charvat has 14 catches for 173 yards and two TDs. Senior wideout Zac Meyer has 10 catches for 116 yards, and junior Jett Haifley has eight receptions for 154 yards.
Wagner would like to see his ball club be a bit more balanced however, by utilizing the rushing attack more.
Junior halfback Nolan Mark leads Three Rivers with 36 carries for 142 yards and one TD. Garrett McDonald has 19 touches for 102 yards and one TD.
Wagner likes the maturity he continues to see out of his offensive line of seniors Hunter Tucker and Tirrell Hausmanis, along with juniors Hunter Stewart, Traven Van Oss, and Ryan Mills.
Three Rivers’ coach was especially pleased with the performance of his defense last week against Otsego.
The Wildcats’ contain unit includes Tyler Moore, Romeo Jordan and Tucker; Morlan and Hausmanis at the ends; Van Oss and Mills at linebacker, and the secondary of Charvat, Mitchell Coney, Meyer, Haifley and Mark.
Here is a quick look at the other area games Friday.
Please see Friday's print or e-edition for full article.