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Thursday, August 25, 2011

2011 Week 1 Preview - Northwest Indians @ Orrville Red Riders

Who: Orrville Red Riders (0-0) vs. Northwest Indians (0-0)
Where: Red Rider Stadium - Orrville, OH
When: Friday August 26th, 7pm
Coaches: Doug Davault (42-18 in 5 seasons at Orrville) & Vic Whiting (99-40 in 13 seasons at Northwest -- 193-68 over 23 seasons)
Radio/TV: Updates on 104.5 WQKT
All Time Series: Orrville leads 20-7 (Click Here for Series Detail)
Last Meeting: 2010 (Orrville won 24-22)

Five Things to Watch

1.  Special Teams.  A big difference in last year's game was Orrville's execution in special teams, and Northwest's lack thereof.  Mishandled snaps by Northwest led to Orrville's early scores and a punt return for a TD by Orrville's Stewart Turner was the game winner for the Riders.  Northwest hopes to have that problem fixed for 2011 with Dan May handling the punting and Jordan Benson handling the placekicking.

The Riders special teams look to be a team strength and preseason JJHuddle All-Ohioan Dylan Tanner will again handle the kicking duties and talented speedsters Stewart Turner and Drew Brenner handling kick and punt returns.

The team who can avoid the big mistakes on special teams will give themselves a big advantage.

2.  Riders without Davis.  The Riders have had two weeks to adjust to life without senior captain Matt Davis, lost for the season with a serious knee injury.  Northwest will likely try to run the ball right at Orrville's linebackers, and try to double team Mason Monheim in the process, forcing someone else on the Orrville defense to step up and make plays.  Rider defenders like Dylan Lemon, Trevor Summers and Joel Zook will be counted on to step in to Davis' shoes and slow down the Northwest attack.

3.  Quarterbacks.  Each team will look to their signal caller to have big nights.  Northwest's Nick Riley is back for his senior season after throwing for 2500+ yards and 18 TD's last season.  While the Indians will look to spread the ball around in the air, their success this season may hinge on how well they can run the ball behind a big offensive line.  Riley will be asked to be a leader on offense and throw the ball with success when the run game isn't clicking.  His favorite targets will be Ronnie Beers, JC Pawlyk and Dan May, among others.

For the Riders, Kyle Lichti returns for his junior season after having a productive, but at times inconsistent sophomore season.  Lichti will be asked to limit mistakes and make wise decisions when the pocket breaks down.  His success may hinge on how quickly an inexperienced line can gel and provide protection.  Northwest's new 3-3-5 stack defense will present a challenge as the Indians will have the capability to drop 8 defenders into pass coverage. 

4.  Second Half.  As is always a factor in week 1, conditioning will play a major role in this game.  Orrville head coach Doug Davault is notorious for his preseason workouts and the Riders are normally one of the better conditioned teams in the area.  In a preseason article in the Massillon Independent, Northwest coach Vic Whiting said his team didn't do any full contact hitting until their first scrimmage two weeks ago (on August 13th) with Perry.  Teams are normally allowed to start full contact drills on August 5th.  Will this affect Northwest?  I'd like to think any extra contact drills can only help a team.  All of these factors may play a part in deciding the outcome of the game, especially if it's a warm night.

5.  Big Plays.  Game changing plays are important no matter the week, but they're especially magnified in week 1, where nerves and mental mistakes are most visible.  The team that can absorb the big play, and make a few of their own will likely come out on top.  The Riders and Indians both have playmakers, and will do their best to get the ball in their hands early and often.

6.  No More Hype.  I don't mind the preseason hype the Riders have garnered.  I think this team has the chance to be special.  How special is up to them.  They should not be measured against last year or any other year.  It will be nice to see the hype fade away and get on with the business of proving the hype is warranted.

Predictions.... says Orrville 31-14...and that's the only projection I can find.
The Akron Beacon Journal picked Orrville to win, 4 votes to 0.
The Wooster Daily Record picked Orrville to win, 8 votes to 1.

I don't think it will be that lopsided.  Whichever teams wins this is going to have to grind it out and hold on late with a ball control offense.

Lots of questions will begin to get answered Friday night.  Enjoy the ride, Rider Nation.

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