UNION MILLS — All through Wednesday's South Central football practice, the ball was placed at the 3-yard line.
"We said, 'They do not cross the (goal) line,'" Satellites coach Buzz Schoff said. "If they cross the line, we're all going to do up-downs. We're focused on making sure we limit them to three yards a play. That is the maximum. That's the mentality. If we hold them to three yards, they have to make a decision on fourth and one."
When the teams met in Week 2, S.C. (3-7) didn't stop the Cavaliers (6-4) much in a 52-22 loss that saw running back Carter Stevens and Culver's big offensive line manhandle the smaller Satellites.
"We weren't physical enough up front, they controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball." Schoff said. "We didn't gain any weight over the past eight weeks, but your mentality has to change. If they gain five yards a play, the same play's coming. Get your mind right. The first time, we didn't know how big, how bruising they were. Now we know. Our focus is different. They know what they've got to bring to the table. We're changing how we approach the game itself."
That doesn't mean a schematic change for S.C., which will do the same things defensively, simply hoping it does them better.
"We could man everybody up, say if you hold your ground against your guy, we'll make everything go outside and let our speedy guys make tackles, or this is our defense, trust the system, and everything's going to be just fine," Schoff said. "We're going to make sure everybody's doing their job, not trying to do too much. We've played 10 games the same, you can't change it in one week. The reason we run the scheme we run is we think it's effective against anything. When you see a team in Week 2, the offense isn't jiving like it should, the defense isn't clicking like it should. Week 11, you are. Everybody knows their assignments, they've bought into the system, Now it just comes down to execution. If you allow then to out-execute you, then you're cleaning up on Monday. If you take it to them and execute your game plan, then you live to fight another day."
Culver lost quarterback Tucker Fisher to a torn ACL, but Schoff considers the loss more significant on the defensive side, where Fisher played safety.
"As far as the run game goes, the quarterback is not much of a factor," Schoff said. "As far as him being a safety, it's a bigger factor for us. That's where the loss is going to hurt them more. He was the kind of guy who flies around. He'll deflect passes, pick the ball off. They've shuffled their defense a little bit. The 11 guys we played against week two, there are probably seven or eight different guys out there now."
The change in the secondary could present opportunity for Brady Glisic and the Satellites passing game, which was on point last week at West Central.
"That's why it turns out to be a pretty good show is the contrast of styles," Schoff said. "They're going to pound you up the middle, we're going to spread you out. The hardest part is mimicking it in practice. We can't simulate their size, but on flip side, it's hard for them, too. They had to get a mobile quarterback who can throw it like Brady and run routes like Zack (Christy) and Jake (Osburn). They can't have a running back mimic Jake because he's not as shifty. There's both sides to that coin. The bottom line is, as the game progresses, they've got to adjust to our speed and we've got to adjust to their size. It's the chess match of playing football. It's why people watch it."
The Cavaliers controlled the ball and the clock in the early-season meeting, so S.C. knows it's imperative to limit Culver drives while maximizing its own.
"The goal is to score in every quarter," Schoff said. "If we score in all four quarters, their possessions are going to be limited. We have to play every quarter like it's the fourth quarter. With limited possessions, we may only get four or five possessions. If they score, we have to answer right now. There's just not enough time on the clock. Who gets the most stops is going to win the football game. If we come out and get a stop on the first drive of the first half and the first drive of the second half, we should be celebrating at the end of the game."
Schoff and his staff have gone over the film of Culver's week nine 13-8 loss to LaVille, a team with a similar approach on offense to South Central, and saw how crucial an early edge can be in playing the Cavaliers.
"The goal is to get them to the point where they're uncomfortable," he said. "LaVille got up 13-0 and you could tell Culver uncomfortable. They were out of their element. They started to do a little trickery. With an offense like that, that controls the clock, pounds the football, it's hard to chase 13."
The wet weather of the last two days will likely make for a soggy field, but Schoff is hoping that at least the precipitation, in whatever form, abates by Friday night.
"It will play a factor in our game plan," he said. "It's not going to change their game plan one bit when they run everything inside, but we're trying to get kids to the edge, dropping back, throwing the ball. Water on the ball affects us a lot more."
Class A Sectional 41
South Central (3-7) at Culver (6-4), 6:30 p.m.