SSC has its hands full with junior running back
Division 5 State Semifinal: Standish-Sterling (12-0) vs. Ovid-Elsie (11-1); Saturday, Nov. 22, 1 p.m.; Midland Community Stadium
STANDISH — If Standish-Sterling can slow down Ovid-Elsie's Chris Robinson, they'll likely be spending part of their Thanksgiving weekend at Ford Field.
Of course, no one has stopped the Marauders' junior running back this season. He's rushed for 2,376 yards and would likely have more had Ovid-Elsie not built a series of huge halftime leads. His performance in the Marauders' 34-27 victory over Freeland on Saturday -- 21 rushes for 267 yards against one of the final eight Division 5 teams left playing -- showed what he is capable of.
The 6-foot, 200-pound running back has a physical style, a knack for finding the right hole and enough cutback ability to make him tough to tackle. The Panthers likely will not see a better running back even if they do make the state final.
"When he gets in the open field, he's very fast," said SSC coach Paul Walderzak. "We really can't get behind (like last week)."
Part of the reason that, with Robinson on the field, it's going to be a lot harder for SSC to get the ball out of Ovid-Elsie's hands. The other is that, as inspiring as Saturday's 40-33 regional championship victory over Gladstone may have been, the Panthers were forced to expose pretty much their entire playbook to Ovid-Elsie's scouting crew to do it.
"There's not many plays we can run that they haven't seen," Walderzak said.
It takes more than one outstanding running back to win, though. The Marauders also have other primary offensive options in what are usually tight (double wing, I, inverted bone) offensive formations. When quarterback Jason Goosen throws, Nick Madden and Cameron Hurst are usually the targets. Madden and Hurst also each scored on defensive plays in Ovid-Elsie's first-round playoff win over Hemlock.
Even with Robinson's brilliant game against Freeland, the Falcons were inches away from tying the game on the final play. O-E held on for a 34-27 victory.
They Marauders also gave up 55 points to Freeland a month ago in their only loss of the season despite 246 yards from Robinson. The primary reason: overall team speed, which the Panthers have in abundance.
"Freeland has some very fast kids," Walderzak said. "Whether or not they had as much team speed (as SSC) is hard to tell."
The Panthers also need to be able to maintain their focus this week as the community responds to last week's unreal victory.
"We took (Monday) off and watched game film," Walderzak said. "We'll just go back to doing the things we do. I don't think we'll have too much trouble looking forward to Ovid-Elsie."