Contrasting styles to decide OVC title

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Speed vs. size. Finesse vs. power.

When the Rock Hill Redmen and Chesapeake Panthers collide Friday to decided whether the Ohio Valley Conference is a two-way tie for the title or a solo act, it will be a contrast of styles.

Chesapeake, the defending champions, are 7-2 overall and 4-0 in the OVC thanks to their speed and quickness. Long runs as well as kick returns have been a trademark all season.

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Rock Hill is also 7-2 and 3-1 in the league due mainly to a big, strong offensive line and power running game mixed with just enough of a passing game to keep defenses honest.

"They're another big test," Panthers coach Phil Davis said. "We have to see if we can outrun their people and they have to see if they can run through our people. Both of us have to go with our strength."

Rock Hill coach Bob McCollister said the key to keeping the Panthers out of the end zone is to keep the ball out of their hands.

"If we win the first down battle and time of possession, we have a better chance," McCollister said. "Every time they touch the ball, one of their guys can go the distance. And we have to play great on special teams. Every game they seem to make a big special teams play."

Making most of the big plays is halfback Cody Hunt who has 900 yards rushing and has scored 14 touchdowns either on runs from scrimmage or returning kickoffs and punts.

He is joined in the backfield by quarterback Justin Finley, fullback Keith Marcum, and halfbacks Tristan Clark and Jackson Caynor.

"(Ball control is) always a nice thing to be able to do if we can keep Hunt playing defense. They've got a lot of guys who can make plays. But I know coach Davis will do something to keep us from controlling the ball," McCollister said.

Rock Hill counters with tailback James Russell, fullback Dan Mullins, quarterback Steven Daily and flanker Roger Joseph.

With so many offensive weapons on both teams, Davis thinks the game could end up a shootout.

"The team that can do what it does best is usually the team that wins," said Davis. "If not, it's going to be whoever has the ball last."

Even though Rock Hill

has a size and strength advantage, Davis noted that this type of situation is nothing new to the Panthers.

"They're big and strong up front. We've played against quality people. Portsmouth was huge, and then Wayne was probably stronger. River Valley was pretty good up front, and Vinton County was pretty good up front," said Davis.

Rock Hill will have to shake off last week's loss at Fairland. The Redmen led 7-0 until the fourth quarter when Fairland scored 21 points.

"Our kids have done a pretty good job of bouncing back. Last year we had a lot of injuries. We're pretty healthy. Last week's game was a tough game. There were three or four plays that were the difference," McCollister said.

This marks the second straight season the Redmen were beat by Fairland and had to beat Chesapeake to try and tie for the OVC title. Also on the line is a home playoff game for the Panthers if they win. Rock Hill will make the playoffs with a win. A loss leaves their future uncertain.

"Both of us have a lot to play for. I don't think it's any advantage to us to be in the position we're in, or a disadvantage to them. The kids can't get overcharged," said Davis.

The rest of the Panthers offense has Jerry Miller at center, Kermit Adkins and Bryan Eldred at the guards, Curtis Hamlin and Shane Williams at tackle, Caleb Robbins is at one end while Dustin O'Brien, Chris Chisler and Jeff Thornburg share the other end spot.

Defensively, the Panthers will have Williams, Eldred and Kesten Harris rotating at the ends, and Hamlin and Derek Leffingwell the tackles. Mark Roby and Kory Thomas are the inside linebackers, Caynor and either Clark or Ryan McComas the outside linebackers, Robbins and Hunt the corners, and Marcum is the safety.

Rock Hill will have Josh Clutters at center, Jeremy Fuhr and David Smith the guards, Brandon Worley and Justin Lavender the tackles, and Kenny Elswick and Nick Goody the ends.

Joining Joseph at flanker is split end Donald Cade.

Defensively, Jose Gomez is the nose guard with Clutters and Worley also playing some. Worley, Fuhr and Lavender rotate at the tackle spots, Goody, Smith and David Stevens are the ends, , Mullins and Elswick are the linebackers, Cade and T.J. Blagg the corners, and Russell and Joseph the safeties.