Looking at the Pontiac-IVC contest
Alan Kuchefski had a bad feeling after last week’s Wednesday practice. The Pontiac head football coach felt his team had practiced poorly all week and that things could get ugly against Tolono.
Things did not improve as Unity whipped the Tribe 41-0 in the Illini Prairie Conference contest.
“Ultimately, that comes back on me. I told them we had a bad week of practice and hopefully, it doesn’t come back to haunt us this week,” Kuchefski said. “Bottom line is, if I’m seeing a terrible week of practice, I need to fix that. I told the Friday night was more my fault than theirs.
“Tolono handled us, but there’s no doubt that we made a lot of mistakes. It doesn’t change the outcome, but it changes how we feel,” Kuchefski added.
Pontiac is back home and looking to notch win No. 2 this week against Illinois Valley Central at Williamson Field. It will not be an easy task. The Grey Ghosts come in with league wins over Unity in Week 1 and an impressive 40-14 victory over defending Class 3A state champ Monticello last week.
Unity surprised the Indians last week by coming out throwing the ball despite having a strong power run game. There won’t be such surprises this week against IVC because the Ghosts can run and throw the ball well.
Last week against Monticello, quarterback Alex Merlo threw for 225 yards and three touchdowns on 16 of 27 passing. He also ran the ball 10 times for 107 yards and two TDs.
Merlo is a returning starter and has shown to be maybe the best player in the conference in the early going.
“Coach (Buck) Casson (says) to these guys, whoever it is that you’re going against, there’s only so much they can do,” Kuchefski said of the defensive approach. “It’s playing assignment football, it’s knowing where you’re supposed to line up, knowing your responsibility for each play, get yourself in the best position to make a play.”
The Pontiac defense will be challenged as it tries to keep Merlo in check and an IVC offense that also scored 21 against Unity in Week 1.
Although the Rockets put up 20 points against the Grey Ghosts in a Week 1 loss, the Sages only managed 14 last week after scoring 42 in the opener. So, how good is the IVC defense?
“They run a 3-5,” Kuchefski said. “We had a lot of success against them last year in certain things.
“We have to tweak our offense a little bit. We have our little wrinkles in our offense, but substantially, we aren’t going to do anything different.”
Pontiac will have Justin Grieff on both sides of the ball. He played a little fullback last week but no defense. He suffered a foot injury in the first half of Week 1’s game with Central Catholic.
Also suffering a first-half injury in that game was Steven Lewis, who might play this week.
Because of injuries and other factors, Pontiac might get really young, especially up front, in the starting lineup.
“We have a lot of guys who are new to the offensive line,” Kuchefski said. “We have one guy (Adam Weir) on the offensive line who played there last year, so, we have guys who are still figuring out how to do it.”
Kuchefski has also been looking at options in the backfield. Kodi Davis has been taking some snaps at quarterback with Wyatt Griffith.
“I think Wyatt has progressed this week,” Kuchefski said of his sophomore QB.
Griffith had a tough go last week after all the circumstances, including being his first varsity road game.
Kuchefski also noted that Cobi Parra has been getting reps at tailback. This might be a way trying to get the speedster the ball in different advantageous situations.
It all comes down to the offensive front, even if the Tribe opted to go with three freshmen.
“Last week we had some guys, it was their first time really getting in there and playing and they were a little hesitant about what they were doing,” Kuchefski said. “We just need a couple drives going and get some confidence.
“We need guys to be moving forward, to be confident where we’re going.”
Pontiac will have its hands full with the surprising Grey Ghosts, who might well be considered the IPC favorite after having beaten the teams who were considered the favorites when the season started.