In the 21 years that Jerry Buti has walked the sideline as Defiance High School's head football coach, only three times has he experienced a losing season. His first season at DHS in 1990 his Bulldogs finished 4-6, in 1995 Defiance was 3-7 and a season ago the program went through a 1-9 campaign.
When Defiance (4-5, 3-5 WBL) hits the road to take on Elida (6-3, 5-3 WBL) on Friday night in the regular-season finale, Buti will be looking for his team to fight to finish 5-5 for 2011 and not add a fourth losing season to that list. Buti knows, however, that it won't be easy against an explosive Elida squad that is fighting to get into the playoffs in Division III (Region 10) for the second straight year.
"Right now our focus is trying to get to five wins so that this team is not posted among those teams on the losing-record side. That's plenty of motivation to me," commented Buti. "We're playing a good opponent that is one of the top teams in our league. I'm sure they're a little disappointed after losing some close games to Kenton, Wapak and O-G, but if they get in the playoffs I'm sure they'll be happy.
"Elida is a tough opponent for us to end the season with no doubt, but the way I look at, why not go out and try your best to beat somebody good?" asked the DHS mentor. "That would leave a good taste in our mouths if we could win, it would be something to build on for next year and it would give us a boost heading into the offseason."
After seeing Kenton's five-wide attack a week ago, the DHS secondary will once again be tested by Elida's four-wide, one-back set featuring quarterback Reggie McAdams (6-6, 195, senior), who is headed to Akron to play basketball for the Zips after graduation. McAdams (168-248, 2,470 yards, 26 TDs, 6 interceptions) has one of the top targets in the WBL in Austin Etzler (6-1, 190, senior) who has 54 catches for 1,113 yards and 14 TDs.
Other weapons at McAdams' disposal include wideout Brandon Stinson (6-1, 180, junior, 42 catches, 548 yards, 5 TDs), wideout Nick Pauff (5-5, 145, junior), tight end Jeremy Newby (6-0, 200, senior) and running back Colin Blymyer (5-7, 165, senior) who has 637 yards rushing and seven touchdowns.
"The thing that is repeated throughout the league about McAdams is that is best quality is his accuracy," said Buti. "He's not going to run around and scramble a lot, he's going to drop back in the pocket and zero in on his target. When he does run, he runs with a plan and he'll run over you. He's a real talent and probably one of the best three athletes in this league overall.
"To me, they might have the two fastest receivers in the league in the Etzler kid and the Stinson kid," continued Buti. "Etzler is a real weapon with great hands, who beat us two years ago at their place on the long pass late in that game. Stinson is another burner that can get open. That's just part of the challenge."
Having a back in the backfield the caliber of Blymyer also poses challeges for the DHS defense that will once again be without linebacker Nick Vittorio who is out with a knee injury. After using an extra defensive back in his place last week against Kenton, Defiance will turn to Zach Hale to step up in Vittorio's absence.
"Your game changes drastically when you have a back in the backfield compared to five wide," Buti said. "Anytime you add a solid running back like Blymyer in the backfield and a quarterback who can run, it's gives your defense that much more to think about. You have to know where Blymyer is at all times because they'll throw to him a lot and you can't just let him run free out there."
Linebacker Justin Kahle leads Defiance in tackles with 81, followed by safety Nick Lopez with 79. Corners Trey Guilliam (38 tackles, 4 interceptions) and Austin Hancock (49 tackles, 2 interceptions) will be busy as will DB Dom Romero (33 tackles, 1 interception). Mike Mansfield (35 tackles, 1 sack) and Kameron Shankle (30 tackles, 2 sacks) anchor the front with Austin Castillo leading the team with five sacks.
Offensively, Defiance will not only look to possess the football, but to finish drives with points. In last week's loss to Kenton, Defiance possessed the ball well at times, but finishing 1-of-7 on fourth down hurt the visitors over the course of four quarters.
"We've got to seek balance in the offense, mix it up to keep their defense off-balance and convert chances when we have them," said Buti. "Winning the battle on first and second down will be big for us. If we're in third-and-10 or fourth-and-10, we're usually not going to convert those. When you have third-and-three is manageable, you get to third-and-five and longer it's iffy. We have to stay on schedule offensively to be successful."
Lopez will once again be the workhorse for the Defiance offense. In the loss to Kenton, Lopez set a new school record for carries in a game with 51, breaking the old record of 47 set by Jaquice King in 2006 against Kenton. Lopez has rushed for 1,136 yards on 256 carries with 13 TDs, while catching 19 passes for 328 yards and three more scores.
Quarterback Joe Keween (92-of-171, 1,335 yards, 10 TDs, 10 interceptions) will look to add balance to the offense by throwing to Guilliam (31 catches, 392 yards, 3 TDs), Hancock (25 catches, 356 yards, 2 TDs) at wideout, as well at tight ends Ryan Voll (6 catches, 136 yards, 1 TD) and Hale (3 catches, 86 yards, 1 TD).
Linebacker Quentin Poling (6-0, 205, junior) leads Elida with 123 tackles, Ian Dukehart (5-11, 185, senior anchors the defensive front from his end position, while safety Anthony Sumpter (5-11, 195, junior) anchors the secondary.