Panthers, Generals set for playoff fight

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 7, 2004

It's scheduled as a football game. It might very well be a prize fight.

Both the Chesapeake Panthers and Ridgewood Generals could resort to smashmouth football when they meet at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Division V Region 19 postseason playoffs.

Chesapeake coach Phil Davis is worried about the three-man backfield of the Generals while Ridgewood head coach Kevin Foster doesn't want to get involved in a slugfest.

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"They won't put up big numbers. They slug it out and keep it from you," Davis said of the Generals. "We have to play good defense. We have to get the ball from them. We have to get some 3-and-outs. If that doesn't happen, then

you have to execute every time on offense and special teams might make a difference."

Foster was equally impressed with the Panthers physical play.

"We worry that they will just line up and smack people. They're a pretty physical ball team. If they can line up and pound it at us, we're in for a long night. They're competitive. They'll come after you," Foster said.

Ridgewood, 9-1 and in the playoffs for the second straight year, likes to run behind fullback Joe Shears, a 6-foot, 230 pound senior, and senior halfbacks Bryan Tolliver (6-2, 215) and Wade Wright (6-2, 182).

Matt Rettos (6-0, 180) and Jarrod Grove (6-0, 173) share the quarterback duties.

"Shears is a good one and Tolliver and Wright are good. They're pretty solid. They don't make mistakes. They lost to Strasburg and probably should have won," David said.

Chesapeake counters with a balanced offense. Quarterback Caleb McComas is 55 of 112 passing for 982 yards and 11 touchdowns. Dustin O'Brien had 21 catches for 368 yards and eight TDs. Jeff Thornburg is next with 16 receptions for 343 yards and two scores.

The running game is balanced in itself. Fullbacks Mark Roby (278 yards) and Kersten Harris (279

yards) are within one yard of each other, as are wingbacks Keith Marcum (75 carries, 416 yards) and Jackson Caynor (75 carries, 415 yards).

The Panthers (8-2) made big plays in the past with speedy running backs. Now the Panthers look toward their passing game of quarterback Caleb McComas to ends Dustin O'Brien and Jeff Thornburg."

"They have good team speed. They have a good tall receiver (O'Brien). They do some pretty efficient passing. Their quarterback does pretty good job. He's a very athletic kid. They're a very athletic team. Defensively, they fly around to the ball," Foster said.

Each coach noted that his opponent reminded them of another team on their regular season schedule. Ridgewood reminded Davis of Symmes Valley and Foster sees a lot of Garaway in the Panthers.

"Their personnel reminds me of Symmes Valley. They have big, strong linemen and they're pretty solid. They don't make a lot of mistakes," Davis said.

Foster said Chesapeake is "very similar to Garaway who has a lot of speed and good athletes. Chesapeake might have more athletes from top to bottom."

Davis said the Generals defense is talented, especially Tolliver at linebacker.

"(Tolliver) is a really good linebacker. They play a 5-2 defense and they play it pretty well," Davis said.

Chesapeake is making its seventh playoff appearance while Ridgewood is in the postseason for the second time. Davis said the long trip works in the Generals favor, but he doesn't expected it to effect the outcome.

"It'll come down to the wire. It's a pretty even match," Davis said.