Showdown arrives for Redmen, Panthers

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 24, 2002

It's a one-game season.

Everything will be on the line Friday night as the Chesapeake Panthers play the Rock Hill Redmen in a game to determine the Ohio Valley Conference championship.

Chesapeake is 6-3 and 4-0 in the OVC while Rock Hill is 6-3 and 3-1 in the league. That means the Panthers can win the title outright, or the Redmen can win and gain a share of the OVC championship.

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On top of winning the league outright, the Panthers can earn a Region 19 Division V postseason playoff berth. Panthers coach Phil Davis said his team is excited.

"We've tried to go with the 'one game at a time' all year long, and now we're out of games. This is it. This is the last one. The kids are excited and they should be. A lot of teams

won't be playing after this week. That shows where (these kids)

have come from and I'm real proud of them. Now, they need to take advantage of it," said Davis.

The season-ending showdown was tainted last week when Fairland upset Rock Hill 19-7. But Davis expects the Redmen to bounce back.

"I'm pretty sure they weren't as focused as they wanted to be. I'm sure they'll be focused this week. They have a lot to play for, too. League championships are hard to get," said Davis.

Chesapeake has won five league titles in the past seven years. Rock Hill last won a league title in 1995.

"It comes down to the last game, and I think that means a lot and it's a great way to end it," said Davis. "But we have to worry about our own attitude. We beat Fairland and Fairland beat Rock Hill, so we have to fight that. That's how upsets happen," said Davis.

Rock Hill coach Bob McCollister is hoping to sneak up on the Panthers.

"Sometimes it's nice to be overlooked," said McCollister.

The Redmen are without standout tailback James Russell who suffered a severe knee injury against River Valley two weeks ago and has been lost for the season. Ken Elswick, who scored Rock Hill's lone touchdown last week, wore Russell's No. 21 jersey to honor his teammate.

McCollister said the team may have struggled adjusting to life without Russell.

"I think it had a lot to do with our performance. I've seen this happen before and is seems like it takes a couple of weeks for players and coaches to adjust when you lose a key player," McCollister said.

Even without Russell, Rock Hill has plenty of weapons with tailback Aaron Hankins, fullback Dan Mullins, and Elswick.

Another key element of the Rock Hill offense is quarterback Steven Daily who was 12 of 34 for 153 yards last week. Rock Hill's balanced attack has Davis concerned.

"You think of them as a running team, but they threw 34 times last week. They present a lot of problems for you. They do it out of formations where they can hurt you both ways. We've been playing good defense and we need to play good defense this week," said Davis.

"I think they've been pretty balanced all year. They've been successful with that all year. I think they'll stay with that . They had to make adjustments last week and I think they'll be better this week."

Chesapeake counters with a running game that features speedy brothers Michael and Cody Hunt. Also in the mix are fullbacks Alvaro "Junior" Jamie and Andy Stapleton and quarterbacks Tyler Marcum and Justin Finley.

McCollister said the Redmen need a good ground game to stop the Panthers quick-strike attack.

"When we've beat Chesapeake in the past, we did it with time of possession. We kept the ball out of their hands, " said McCollister. "Their offense is built on speed and deception. They execute it real well. Their scheme is like Air Force and they're aggressive."