SHERWOOD — While on paper the Fairview Apaches might be the underdogs as the No. 8 seed in a Division VI, Region 23 playoff game at No. 1 Lima Central Catholic on Friday, Fairview coach Doug Rakes doesn’t necessarily see it that way.
He knows the type of team his 9-1 Apaches are, and he believes they can play with just about anyone in their region. In addition, it’s a position Fairview is familar with. As the No. 7 seed a year ago, the Apaches made a run all the way to the regional final.
“It seems like not many people are giving us a chance,” Rakes said. “And really, from a coaching standpoint, that’s the position I like to be in. People underestimating us, we’re kind of used to it.
“But you look at the situation this year, and I think you see some people who aren’t familar with us, and they’re writing us off. But I don’t think that’s a real wise thing to do. We have a very good football team in all facets. LCC is a good team, and they have some athletes, so it’s going to be a tremendous challenge for us. But I think we’re going to be able to compete.”
His players aren’t viewing themselves as underdogs in this one either.
“I don’t think we really mind it,” Fairview senior quarterback Cade Polter said. “Once you’re in, it doesn’t really matter what the seeds are anymore.”
Still, Rakes and the rest of the Apaches know they’ll be faced with a test unlike one they’ve seen this year. Lima Central Catholic (9-1) employs an offense that racks up 48.4 points per game, largely behind an explosive rushing attack that piles up an average of 361.8 yards per contest.
Shaun Thomas leads the way on the ground with 1,508 yards on 13.6 yards per carry to go along with 22 touchdowns, while Rossy Moore (874 yards, 12 touchdowns) and Dylan Wilson (507 yards, seven touchdowns) are nearly as explosive.
Lima Central Catholic quarterback Nevan Stolly doesn’t throw much, but when he does, he’s proven to be efficient with a 66.7 completion percentage, 799 yards, 15 touchdowns and just three interceptions. His favorite target is Thomas, who has 21 catches for 430 yards and six touchdowns.
Fairview’s defense has been stout all year, surrendering just 4.4 points per contest, which includes five shoutouts. But Lima Central Catholic’s attack will certainly prove to be a challenge, Rakes said.
“(Thomas) and (Moore) are two special athletes,” Rakes said. “(Thomas) is faster than anyone we’ve seen all year, and (Moore) is just a very good athlete. They look to get those guys on the perimeter and run some jet sweeps.
“We’re going to have to be disciplined all around with our gap technique and integrity up front with our defensive linemen, our reads with our linebackers and our defensive backs. Tackling, not diving, running our feet on tackles and rallying to the ball are all keys to slowing them down a little bit.”
Despite all that Fairview’s defenders will be faced with, Lima Central Catholic’s attack is one they feel prepared for.
“We just have to do our job,” said Fairview senior linebacker Chayse Singer, who leads the Apaches with 129 tackles. “Our coaches have done a tremendous job of game-planning and telling us what to do. It’s just our job to execute and get the job done.”
Fairview counters with its own high-powered offense. The Apaches got off to a slow start during the first three weeks of the season, but in their last seven games, they’ve scored an average of 47.5 points per game.
The Apaches like to spread it out on the arm of quarterback Cade Polter and several talented receivers. Polter has thrown for 2,461 yards and 30 touchdowns this year, and he likes to target several different receivers.
Caleb Frank (46 catches, 531 yards, six touchdowns), Riley Lucas (35 catches, 474 yards, seven touchdowns), Luke Timbrook (29 catches, 474 yards, four touchdowns), Doug Rakes Jr. (33 catches, 414 yards, eight touchdowns and Cade Ripke (32 catches, 358 yards, three touchdowns) all make a big impact in the passing game.
While it is a pass-heavy offense, the Apaches do like to mix in some of the running game, too. Timbrook (442 yards, seven touchdowns), Lucas (313 yards, five touchdowns) and Polter (248 yards, six touchdowns) lead the charge there.
Lima Central Catholic’s defense surrenders 18.3 points per game.