When Defiance takes the field on Friday night at 7:30 p.m. at Fred J. Brown Stadium in their final home game of the season against Lima Shawnee, the Bulldogs will not be lacking motivation.
At stake for the Bulldogs (4-3, 3-3 WBL):
• A chance to earn their fifth win of the year, assuring themselves of not having a losing record after finishing 2010 with a mark of 1-9.
• A chance to snap a two-game losing skid to the Indians (3-4, 2-4 WBL).
• A chance to keep their playoff hopes alive in Division III, Region 10 where they sit 12th in computer points.
• A chance for seniors to win their final home game of their high school career.
"This is a huge game for us," agreed Defiance mentor Jerry Buti. "Our seniors have the opportunity to fight for a win in their final home game, we have a chance to get that fifth win and get back toward the top of the league where we feel this program belongs. Last summer we talked about returning this program to respectability and we have a chance to take a step toward that.
"When you're playing for something in week eight of the season, that's good stuff," continued Buti. "But right now, our kids still need to learn to practice like champions. To me, this is that kind of game for us and I still see us having issues. Our reps are still sloppy (in practice), so we still have a lot of work to do. We're still pushing though, because we know we have a lot of room to get better."
The Bulldogs welcome in a Shawnee team that is coming off a 63-20 victory over Celina in which they returned three interceptions for touchdowns. The Indians are riding a win streak against the Bulldogs having beaten them 27-7 last season, while two years ago Shawnee blanked Defiance, 20-0.
"When you see a team score 63 points in one week, that's enough to terrorize any coach ... I don't know if I'll sleep all week," Buti said. "Defensively, it's going to be a problem, they're very efficient offensively. Shawnee is one of those teams that has been in their offense forever. They're going to line-up in the I and play power football, or in the double-wing and jet-sweep you death.
"They're the only ones they run the double-wing, and they run it with success because they always have fast players," added Buti. "They always have a good tailback they'll put in the wing or line-up in the I, and this year that's Sam Altenbach. They've also got a quarterback in Seth Rosenbauer who's as big as Ben Roethlisberger. He's 6-5, 240, he's experienced and he's a good one. We haven't proven we can stop a good team that can run the football, that's our challenge again this week."
Altenbach (5-11, 185, senior) has rushed for 465 yards on 71 carries with seven touchdowns, while Rosenbauer, a senior, has thrown for 384 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. Altenbach will be a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield, while Keenan Newland (6-0, 190, senior) and Deanthony Nance (5-9, 170, senior) are also targets for Rosenbauer.
Linebacker Justin Kahle continues to lead the Defiance defense in tackles, checking in with 68 on the season. Safety Nick Lopez has 63 stops, while linebacker Nick Vittorio has 56. Cornerback Trey Guilliam has 29 tackles to go along with three picks, including one for a touchdown, while defensive lineman Mike Mansfield has 25 stops and one fumble return for a score. Austin Castillo leads DHS in sacks with four to go along with his 27 stops.
While the Defiance defense will look to slow down the Indians, the Defiance offense will square off against Shawnee's 3-5 defense led by linebacker Trey Runneals (5-10, 185, senior). Runneals has 68 tackles on the season to spearhead the Indians. Newland has three interceptions, including one for a touchdown at corner, Brandon Kohl (5-8, 140, soph.) has two interceptions and Rosenbauer will pull double-duty, starting at linebacker.
"Defensively, they have the Runneals kid who is a terror," Buti said. "If we don't find a way to block him, we will not move the football. We have to get to the second level and block him or it will be a long night for us. They changed to the 3-5 defense this year, which is similar to Napoleon's defense, and on tape I see a lot of red jerseys running to the football."
The Defiance offense will be looking to establish the run, but being balanced has been key for the Bulldogs on that side of the football.
"We always want to run the football. We have a good offensive line and those guys have just gotten better," said Buti. "Also, we've been able to throw the football and throw it with confidence. That's a big part of offense and after watching Van Wert put nine guys in the box to stop the run, I thought our passing attack really opened up our running game as that game went on."
Senior guards Max Glassford and Nick Rath, along with senior tackle Shallus Beatty anchor the DHS offensive front. Joe Keween (70-131, 1,123 yards, 9 TDs, 9 int) will once again be under center for DHS, with Austin Hancock (21 catches, 331 yards, 2 TDs) and Guilliam (20 catches, 272 yards, 3 TDs) at wideout. Lopez (179 carries, 838 yards, 12 TDs, 14 catches, 282 yards, 3 TDs), meanwhile, continues to be a dual threat for Defiance.