The two Metro League schools will square off at 1 p.m. Saturday (Sept. 13) at Westminster.
“Westminster have become one of our rivals,” MICDS coach Josh Smith said. “They are in our classification (Class 4) for the postseason. We’ve had some real competitive games with them.”
The teams are split 4-4 over the last eight games. Westminster is coming off a 34-14 victory last season.
“The last couple of years, they’ve found a way to get us,” Smith said. “They’re a good team. We know we’ll have our hands full.”
Westminster coach Cory Snyder said his team is well aware of the tradition of MICDS and its success in football.
“We have great respect for MICDS and their program. They are always well coached and we always expect to be a competitive game,” Snyder said. “Our team takes each game one at a time. We know that MICDS is going to play hard and we have to make sure that we are prepared.”
The host Wildcats are undefeated at 3-0 while Rams are 2-1. Both squads are coming off big victories.
Westminster scored a 27-20 victory last week at Lutheran North. The winning touchdown came with just over four minutes to play when linebacker Caleb Miller picked up a fumble and returned it 85 yards for a touchdown.
“North didn’t make the handoff cleanly and the ball bounced away from the running back,” Snyder said. “He chased after it and Drew Melaragno dove in and knocked the ball further away. Caleb scooped it and as he was recovering it, Connor Hafenrichter sprinted ahead to make the key block on the quarterback.”
Miller, a two-way player, also is a running back for the Wildcats.
Snyder said the win helped his club.
“It does two things. It reveals areas that need improvement by what Lutheran North was able to exploit and it builds confidence in our players,” Snyder said. “Lutheran North was able to battle back but our kids kept on playing and fighting.”
MICDS prevailed 20-14 at Lutheran South.
“It was a good game for us, Smith said. “We fought through a lot of adversity, some of it that was self-inflicted. We’ve scored in last seconds and that leads us to believe that our kids will play a full 48 minutes. It was not an easy day. That game was stressful. Give a lot of credit to South. That game meant a lot to them.”
Lutheran South has not beaten MICDS since 1982.
The Crusaders almost got one this time though.
MICDS starting quarterback Teddy Schmid threw five interceptions. Four of those interceptions were in the end zone. Three of them came in the second half.
So, Smith made a change. He put in Jordan Jackson, a freshman at quarterback. It was the first time Smith has done that in his tenure at MICDS.
The move came midway through the fourth quarter.
“Our quarterback had thrown five interceptions,” Smith said. “We struggled as the position. We thought the frehsman added an component on the ground for us. He has great feet. He runs well under pressure. He had a chance to change the speed of the game.:
The change worked. Jackson, who is a runner, threw a touchdown pass to sophomore Harry Wellford, a talented lacrosse player, with 14 seconds left for the game-winning touchdown. A two-point conversion made the final 20-14.
Jackson’s poise did not surprise Smith.
“Just the fact that he’s a kid who’s played a lot of football made me believe,” Smith said. “The moment did not overwhelm him. It was a well designed play by the offense. He had to make a throw and he executed it.”
Should kudos go to the coach who called the play?
“Every now and then you get one right,” Smith quipped.
Jackson’s knowledge helped him despite just being a freshman, Smith said.
“He’s the size of a freshman. He’s 5-foot-6 and 160 pounds,” Smith said. “But he’s played a lot of football to get to this point. He knows how the game is played. The speed of the game did not bother him.”
That said, Smith said he has not made up his mind who will start against Westminster.
“We’ll see where it goes,” Smith said.
Overall, Smith is happy with his club this season.
“We have had a decent start. Nothing has come quite easy for us,” Smith said. “Hopefully we will get better. We’re trying to find our identity on offense. Our defense had been solid throughout. Our offense has been good enough to get us some wins. We’ve moved the ball prtty well but we’ve got to get better in the red zone.
“We led by our seniors. Cole Sigmund has done a great job. Against South, he had 30 carries for 196 yards and 21 tackles. He has been a good leader for us. Keiondre Jordan has been a nice surprise as a sophomore for us.”
Smith said the Wildcats will be a good challenge for his squad.
“It’s a typical Westminster team,” Smith said. “They are very well coached. They play very fast and aggressive football. They have good speed at the skill positions. They find a way to make plays. They get it done. They’re a very competitive team.”
Snyder said he is pleased with how his team has played so far. However, there is room for improvement.
“We’ve done some good things this year but like every team, we need and want to keep improving each week,” Snyder said. “We’ve played pretty decent defense and done enough on offense to win. We’ve also scored twice on defense which has definitely helped.”
The Rams will be a good test for the Wildcats, Snyder said.
“They are playing some young kids and have some solid veterans,” Snyder said. “Cole Sigmund is a good player on both sides of the ball. They play hard for 48 minutes and find ways to win.”
To remain undefeated, the Wildcats must play a solid overall game.
“I think that the recipe is always the same,” Snyder said. “You have to play good defense, win the turnover margin, and take advantage of scoring opportunities when they come. A lot of that starts on the offensive and defensive lines.”