EDGERTON — There’s a lot to make of the Edgerton football team’s Division VII, Region 26 quarterfinal game against McComb, which is scheduled to kickoff at 7 p.m. Saturday in McComb.
For one thing, McComb is the defending state champion in Division VII, but in addition to that, the Panthers are also the team that ended Edgerton’s perfect run in 2018 with a 33-18 victory in the regional final.
The Bulldogs no doubt remember all that, but when it comes down to it, they say they’re excited to play anyone in a Week 11 contest.
“Any time you make the playoffs, it’s exciting,” Edgerton coach Ben Wilhelm said. “The guys are excited to have another week to play football and excited to have another week to hang out ... so the excitement really takes care of itself, and it doesn’t matter who we’re playing. It’s just a fun atmosphere.
“A lot of guys don’t get this opportunity possibly ever in their football career, and we’ve got a group of seniors, and this is their third go-around at it. So that’s fun. ... But we’re approaching it the same way we have the first 10 weeks of the season, and that’s focus on ourselves and what we need to do to improve and play our best football in Week 11.”
For Edgerton’s senior class, Saturday’s game will serve as the fifth playoff game of their careers. In past years, a lot of the focus had been placed on securing the program’s first-ever postseason victory. But now the veteran seniors say while they’re obviously still proud and excited to take part in the postseason, they try to take a more business-like approach to it.
“As a younger guy, you could overthink it more because it’s playoffs,” senior Logan Showalter said. “But once you get older, you just think of it as another week of football.”
Much like Edgerton (8-2) lost a lot of talented players off its dominant 2018 squad, McComb (8-2) has had a lot of new contributors at the skill positions this year.
To the delight of the Edgerton faithful, Tanner Schroeder, the superstar quarterback and do-everything firecracker, has graduated, but the Panthers still have a lot of talent on the field.
Senior Aaron Davis has stepped into the quarterback role. Davis has 17 touchdowns, four interceptions and 1,647 yards to lead the Panthers through the air. He also leads the Panthers on the ground with 1,068 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Jacob Dillon (423 yards, 14 touchdowns), Nathaniel Miller (396 yards, eight touchdowns) and Zack Deal (249 yards, two touchdowns) also contribute to the McComb ground game, while Ka’Von Bailey (27 receptions, 576 yards, six touchdowns) and Jarod Dillon (27 receptions, 517 yards, eight touchdowns) serve as the leading receivers for an offense that puts up 42.2 points per game.
“They’re always well-coached,” Wilhelm said. “They’ve got some size up front. They’re replacing a lot of their skill players from last year … but they can execute if a team allows them. The big thing is to keep our offense on the field and extend drives that end in points … and just out-physical them at the point of attack.”
Edgerton counters with a similarly high-powered offensive attack that averages 39.3 points per game. The Bulldogs like to pound the run game, where senior running back Hunter Prince leads the way with 1,666 yards and 24 touchdowns. Craig Blue (446 yards, two touchdowns) and Gannon Ripke (446 yards, four touchdowns) also contribute to a strong ground game.
Quarterback Jaron Cape has shown some ability in the passing game, too. He’s completed 50 of his 80 passes for 704 yards and 14 touchdowns. Showalter is the leading receiver with 30 catches for 440 yards and eight touchdowns.
On the defensive side of the ball, McComb and Edgerton have both proven to be formidable. McComb surrenders 16.6 points per game to Edgerton’s 15.8.
Edgerton, a program which has recently entered every season with sky-high expectations, fell a bit short of its initial goal of repeating as champions of the Green Meadows Conference. Lopsided losses at home to Fairview and Tinora separated the Bulldogs from that.
But with that behind them now, a third straight playoff berth and another shot at McComb isn’t a bad deal either.
“We’re pretty excited to get out there and just play another Week 11 game,” Cape said. “No matter who it was, we were going to be focused and ready this week to play. It being McComb fires us up a little more than usual. But again, we’ve got to go out there and take care of business still.”