McPherson will host McKendree in the Victory Sports Network Game of the Week this Saturday in McPherson, Kan. McPherson enters the game with an unblemished record, while McKendree has two losses this season. The Bearcats were blown out by Marian (Ind.) earlier this season before losing a close one on the road at Saint Francis (Ill.). In the end McKendree claimed its seventh league title and enters the postseason for the ninth time. McPherson is into the postseason for the second time in school history. The first was last season, a 40-24 setback at MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.). The Bulldogs are in search of their first-ever postseason victory. McPherson and McKendree are set to meet for the first time in the two programs history.
Here is a look at the matchup, position-by-position:
McPherson has a very solid running back in Aaron Lafitte. He is just shy of 1,000 yards and has 18 touchdowns on the season. Lafitte can pound the ball up the middle or stretch the defense to the outside. He has a combination of speed and power that makes him a very successful back. It will take a solid performance to stop the team’s leading scorer.
McKendree is led by Jimmy Berezik, who has 133 rush attempts this season. Joe Beimfohr is the fullback, but leads the team with seven rushing touchdowns. Also watch for Marlone Chenault to get a handful of carries from his wingback position. This running back crew does not have eye-popping stats, but they have multiple backs who could take over the football game.
Aaron Lafitte is a very good back and could end up with the better stats in this game. However, the depth of McKendree leans me in their favor for the advantage.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:
Many expected Byron Gettis to again be one of the top tight ends in the country this season and lead this team in receiving. The offense hasn’t allowed for many pass attempts this season and only 133 passing yards per game. Gettis is second on the team with 14 receptions, behind Myron Hicks. The leading wide receiver has 27 receptions this season for 413 yards. And three TDs. The teams leading touchdown catcher is running back Jimmy Berezik.
On the other side of the field stand Andy Skinner and Joe Middleton, who both have over 60 receptions on the season and both average better than 114 yards per game. Middleton has 15 touchdwon catches on the year, while Skinner has 13. Add a rushing touchdown for Skinner and he has 14 total touchdowns this season. It certainly helps these two wide receivers with a quarterback like Mascarenas.
Shane Mascarenas leads the Bulldog offense having completed 63 percent of his 332 pass attempts. He has thrown 35 touchdowns and just 13 interceptions. The senior has thrown for more than 3,400 yards this season, averaging 341.9 yards per game. He has a pair of rushing touchdowns on the season, but is not a guy that will hurt you on the ground. Mascarenas is a pocket passing quarterback and a defense with good pressure could cause some problems. However, statistics show he is a very smart quarterback with 332 pass attempts and just 13 interceptions.
Austin Fisher also protects the football. He has just three interceptions on the season, but has only attempted 168 passes. He is completing just 55 percent of his passes in 2010, but has found a wide receiver 16 times for a touchdown. Although his rushing statistics are far from flashy, Fisher is a guy that can take off with the football to create a first down.
McKendree’s defense has been pretty good at stopping the run this season. The unit is allowing opposing running backs just 3.3 yards per carry. The unit is surrendering less than 300 yards of total offense per game. The defense has been beat the most through the air, one of McPherson’s strengths. The defense will have to find a way to slow down the pass attack to compliment its stout run defense. IF they can do that then the Bearcats will certainly have an opportunity to win this football game. The defense needs to come ready to play and get stops early. Forty one percent of the points allowed by the Bearcat defense have been in the first quarter.
McPherson’s defense is giving up a few more yards of total offense this season (306 yards/game). The defense has been challenged by some KCAC offenses this season that like to go vertical down the field. They are giving up just 3.4 yards per carry to opposing running backs this season. The key is to get offenses to third down. The Bulldog defense is holding opposing offenses to just 29 percent conversion rate on third down. McPherson is quite opposite of McKendree as 41 percent of the points allowed by the Bulldogs this season have come in the final quarter of play. The defense needs to play hard for four quarters and not allow a comeback effort.
Both defenses have stood their ground this season. If McKendree wins this game it will be because the defense created some opportunities. If McPherson wins this game it will be because the offense outscored the Bearcats. I think McKendree has a slight edge on the defensive side of the ball.
At the end of this game we could be talking about “If he only made that field goal”. It has been the struggling story for these two teams. Both kickers have been inconsistent. McKendree’s Jordan Fark has made 11 of his 17 attempts this season. He is 5-8 beyond 40 yards with a long of 51, but he has missed five extra point kicks this season. Travis Eason is on the other sideline and has made 64 of his 67 extra point attempts this season. He is 8 of 15 kicking field goals. The Bulldogs have their best chance to connect on a field goal inside the 40-yard range. From 40 yards or more Eason is just 4-9, with a long of 52 yards. Kicking woes could affect this game, or it could turn a lot of drives into four down territory.
These two teams match up very nicely on paper. The defenses have had their share of success this season, but both units have given up a handful of points in games as well. This game will come down to who executes better. McPherson has the better offense by far, but can the Bulldogs exploit the Bearcat defense? Expect this game to be close early and stay that way through most of the game. I think McPherson is a couple of big plays better than McKendree in this one and pull away in the end.