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Gridiron Preview – Playoff Rematch at the Dawg Pound

Only 256 high school football teams in the state of Illinois have earned the chance to extend their season by at least one more game. 32 of those teams are in Class 2A, and two of those teams will meet at Harrington-Jeffries Sports Complex this Saturday at 1 PM; the Carmi-White County Bulldogs and Breese Mater Dei Knights. It marks the 2nd time these two teams have met in the playoffs in the last 3 years, Mater Dei beat the Bulldogs 54-16 in the 1st round of the 2021 playoffs. 

The Bulldogs are coming off a 36-6 loss against Johnston City last week, in a game that felt a lot closer than what the scoreboard read. The Bulldogs were competitive, but the Indians made the big plays when needed including a 4th-and-goal touchdown and a 66 yard touchdown on 3rd & 17. The Bulldogs will face another talented opponent this week who is very capable of also making those big plays. 

The Knights are 6-3 on the season, but those three losses came against 3A and 4A schools with a combined 5 losses; Breese Central, Belleville Althoff and Mt. Zion. Mater Dei is a private catholic school and they don’t play in a conference, meaning they can beef up their schedule as much as they would like. Although their schedule is full of larger schools, they only have one win against a playoff team in 2023 (5-4 Effingham). The Knights are coming off their worst performance of the season, a 41-6 loss against Mt. Zion. Mater Dei only picked up 92 total yards of offense. Granted, Mt. Zion is a 4A powerhouse. One would say that Mater Dei is just as good of a team as Sesser-Valier and Johnston City – another may think that they are the two teams combined into one. 

The Knights will run a mainly spread offense, much like the Red Devils, but they have the size and speed comparable to Johnston City. Senior quarterback Trenton Zeeb (#16) leads the show, he is the team’s leading rusher and leading passer. He has completed 68 of 136 passes for 1,057 yards, with 17 touchdowns and 4 interceptions this year. Zeeb’s leading receiver is senior Garrett Winkeler (#24), he has caught 22 passes for 356 yards and 7 touchdowns. Nick Lampe (#2) has caught 13 passes for 221 yards and 3 touchdowns. Mater Dei will throw the ball some, but that is not their forte. They want to run the ball out of the spread, and they want to give the ball to their playmakers on the outside. Markus Kerher (#48) is the teams 2nd leading rusher behind Zeeb, he has just 320 yards and 4 touchdowns on 35 carries. We’ll also see Deacon Hagen (#32) and Brock Revermann (#34) get touches on run plays. 

“It will be key for us to stop Winkeler, Lampe, and Revermann,” said CWC defensive coordinator Clinton Wolff. “We have to limit their big plays.”

Mater Dei’s offense has put up some good numbers against the weaker opponents on their schedule, but their defense is the reason why they’ve had success this season. The Bulldogs are used to facing stacked boxes, and it will be no different with the Knights. They will practically have all 11 players within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. 4 down linemen, 2 defensive ends, two middle linebackers, two corners playing in and one safety over the top. In other words, they’re going to make it tough for Carmi to run the ball between the tackles, which has been the Bulldogs’ bread and butter since the dawn of time. With that being the case, don’t be surprised if Carmi tries to pass the ball a little more than usual. Last week, we saw Landon Driscoll attempt a season-high 16 pass attempts, including his 5th touchdown pass of the season. The Bulldogs offensive line did a good job in protecting Driscoll in the pocket, which will be vital again on Saturday. Driscoll did injure his throwing shoulder towards the end of last Friday’s loss to JC, but he is expected to play. He will also have one of his receivers back in the lineup, Beck Huff is expected to play as well after missing last week with a leg injury. 

If the Bulldogs want to win this game, I don’t think it will be byway of an offensive shootout. Both teams’ defenses are too good. Unless one team runs away from the other, I’m expecting a low scoring defensive battle. 

It is going to be important for the Bulldogs to keep it close in the first half. Last week, the Bulldogs gave up three touchdowns in the first two quarters and weren’t able to overcome a 24-6 halftime deficit, despite holding the Indians scoreless in the 3rd and to only one offensive touchdown in the 4th. The Bulldogs aren’t quite built to make large comebacks, therefore they will have to counter each punch that Mater Dei throws their way. 

“They are fast and physical,” said CWC head coach Kurt Simon. “They are going to be as good if not better than any team we’ve seen this year and we are going to have to match their physicality.” predicts a 31-21 win for Mater Dei.

Fans who can’t attend Saturday’s game can listen and watch on 97.3 FM WRUL and the WRUL Sports YouTube Channel.

The Taylor Eye Care pre-game show will begin at 12:40 PM.


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