Hornets, Panthers meet in showdown for OVC

Published 5:00 am Thursday, October 28, 2010

It’s not Tombstone, but there will be a showdown none-the-less.

Whether it’s a shootout is uncertain, but the team emerging from the showdown will be the Ohio Valley Conference champion.

The Coal Grove Hornets (8-1) and Chesapeake Panthers (4-5) both come into the regular season finale with 4-0 OVC records to play in a “winner take all” game.

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Coal Grove was expected to be in the title hunt before the season began. Chesapeake has been a surprise in the title chase, especially after starting the season 0-5 against non-league competition.

“The last four weeks have helped a lot. They’re starting to believe in themselves more,” said Panthers’ coach Phil Davis. “You can’t have people going in different directions and you have to trust the guy next to you. Our kids want to go out and give a good account of themselves.”

The Hornets are seeking a fourth straight OVC title and second straight outright crown.

“Our kids work hard. If I could say anything about this team it would be this group of kids likes to play football,” said Hornets’ coach Dave Lucas.

“We game plan it one game at a time. Each game is important as you go through the season and you try to improve and we’ve been able to do that.”

Coal Grove won last year’s meeting 50-27, but Lucas said both teams are different than last season and he isn’t sure what to expect.

“They’re pretty good. They have good size and some decent backs. They are a competitive team. They had their tough schedule early. They made it through the season without many injuries,” said Lucas.

The Panthers relied on Gabe Freyre and Peter Hintz to make big plays last season. This year has been a collective work of fullback Trey West, quarterback Austin McMaster, and running backs Peter Hintz and Dylan Nichols.

“They’re more balanced as far running back. Last year they had two kids. This year they use more kids,” said Lucas. “Their quarterback is a pretty good athlete. He runs the team better than most of the kids we’ve seen this year.”

Coal Grove has shown itself to be more diversified this year, especially with the improved play and maturity of sophomore quarterback Alex Bare.

Fullback Bubba Wood and tailback Boo Woods get plenty of help from Greg Bender and Jake Murphy.

“I like to be balanced when I can. That’s what we’re hoping to do,” said Lucas.

Davis said the Hornets balance and depth are big factors his team has to overcome to have a chance.

“They’re a fairly veteran team. A lot of their guys weren’t front line guys last year, but they played a lot,” said Davis. “I’m impressed with their quarterback. He makes some plays. They have a quality backfield. Those guys are all good.”

While most of the pre-game talk centers around the offenses, Lucas said the key to the game will be on the other side of the ball.

“The defense is going to be the key to this football game,” said Lucas.

Davis thinks the key will be which team can assert its style of play on the other.

“Both of us try to control the ball. The defense has to get some stops. Turnovers and field position and other little things will make the difference,” said Davis.

The Hornets like to control the ball with their offensive line consisting of Brady Burton, Eli Pennington, Eric Fields, Austin Cochran and Brandon Pratt.

Chesapeake’s interior line is comprised of Taylor Banaei, Cody Mann, T.J. McCoy, Richard McFarland and Brad Pike.

Davis knows the Hornet first plan of attack will be to run right at the Panthers’ defense.

“Their philosophy is ‘This is what we’re going to do and we’re going to do it so well you’re not going to stop it,’” said Davis. “We’ve always tried to have more than one bullet in the gun, but that all goes back to execution. You have practice it and make it work.”

“This year they’re not similar in as much as what they do, but they are similar in talent and experience.”

Kickoff is 7:30 p.m.