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It’s not going to be easy and Churubusco head coach Lee Etzler knows it.
Tonight’s class A regional championship between visiting Hagerstown and the black and gold of ’Busco has just one loss among the two teams.
The Eagles are in search of the game plan that no other team has been able to find this season. One that will be an undefeated Tigers team that averaged 40 points in the sectional round.
“They’re a good football team, no doubt about it,” Etzler admitted. “It’s a good football program. It’s a community that likes their football and had some success over the years. It’s not like we’re getting a green team here.”
The No. 3 Tigers come into the match-up with just four losing seasons in 27 years as a program. Despite 10 sectional championships, Hagerstown is in search of its first regional crown since 1985.
Churubusco on the other hand has seen success in th recent past outside the sectional round. The Eagles senior class is the last group from a 2007 semistate team.
Both teams have taken a similar path through the sectional round with blowout victories and low-scoring affairs.
After beating Wes-Del 70-14, Hagerstown squeezed by Union City 14-10 in the semifinal round. Churubusco won two of its three sectional games by an average margin of 33 points but a semifinal round test against Southern Wells was won with defense 12-6.
Averaging a 31-point margin of victory in the regular season, the Eagles have had, in some cases, a much needed test in close games during the postseason.
“Any time you’re in that situation it’s just another notch under your belt where you’ve done it before so if it happens against you, you don’t go into panic mode,” Etzler stated.
The Eagles fell behind early to South Adams in the sectional championship last week. According to Etzler, a comeback might not be as easy.
Hagerstown returns 12 starters from a 6-5 team in 2009. Six on each side of the ball, the Tigers have used both offense and defense to remain unbeaten.
Fullback Chase Patton comes in as the Tigers top rusher just ahead of fellow back Matt Thompson. The two have combined for more than 1,700 yards and 17 touchdowns on the ground.
The run-based offense keeps the ball on the ground the majority of the time, quarterback Alex Houck has thrown for 1,195 yards including 10 of his 15 passing touchdowns to tight end Chris Werking.
“Offensively, we’re worried about them pushing us around a little bit,” Etzler said. “They’ve got a good two-year quarterback, some tall receivers and two good backs in the backfield.”
Hagerstown will have another threat to stop on the ’Busco offense after Josh LeFever emerged as a counter to defenses focus on all-time leading Eagles rusher Kyle Mathewson.
LeFever had a season-high 120 yards on the ground last week while the Starfires shutdown Mathewson in the first half. With team’s becoming more aware of Mathewson, Etzler admits they got away from getting other players involved.
“We’re not quite sure how they’re going to defend us,” Etzler said. “Honestly, we probably got away from spreading the ball around. We got back to that some. With LeFever game, that’s going to be something else teams are going to have to be concerned about.”