General Brown head coach Tom Frears and assistant Doug Black have spent much of their week throwing passes in simulated situations, trying to figure out how the Lions defense can slow down the high-powered Skaneateles offense.
They are going to make some plays, Frears said. We just want to limit the big plays and make them work hard for every yard.
That was not the case last week when Utica Notre Dame sophomore quarterback Kevin Warmack blitzed the General Brown pass defense for 344 yards in the Lions 33-30 comeback win in last weeks Section 3 Class C-1 quarterfinals.
But if the Lions thought they were under fire, just wait until they go up against Skaneateles senior Conor Herr in Saturdays 3 p.m. semifinal at Chittenango High School. He is the most prolific passer in Section 3 this season.
Hes a lot bigger and more talented than the Notre Dame kid, Frears said. But we think weve learned some things from that game and, hopefully, well be in better position more often this week.
Herr, who has passed for 1,771 yards and 27 touchdowns in seven games, runs the Skaneateles spread to perfection, throwing an assortment of short passes, crossing routes, deep outs, hooks and flares to backs. At 6-foot-2, 217 pounds, hes got a big arm and is mobile.
Notre Dame put in the spread just for us, Frears said. Skaneatles has been running it exclusively for two years, so they really know how to execute.
Frears said the most difficult part about defending the spread is they can come at you with so many different weapons. Getting your people in the right places and the right times is crucial.
General Brown had trouble putting pressure on Warmack a week ago. Frears said its incumbent upon the Lions to do some different things to move Herr out of the pocket. But hes good on the run, too, so you cant get carried away with stunts and blitzes.
Fears and defensive coordinator Rob Pickeral are actually trying to simplify the defense without losing our aggressiveness.
Unfortunately, the Lions will be without one of their top two-way players, senior lineman Corey Gaffney. He suffered a concussion last week and will not play Saturday.
The next guy in has to do the job, Frears said of Gaffneys loss.
Senior lineman Jordan Scofield said winning the battle up front will be the key to General Browns success on Saturday. If we can keep the ball away from their offense, we can slow them down.
That means pounding the rock behind a veteran offensive line and giving the ball to sophomore running back Zech Pitre. Pitre carried 29 times for 212 big yards and two scores last week as the Lions reeled off three long TD drives in the second half.
Pitre, at 6-foot, 200 pounds, currently leads all area backs in rushing (108 carries, 991 yards), is averaging 9.2 yards per carry and has scored 12 TDs. Frears said Pitre is very strong and tough to tackle. And he gets a lot of his yards after first contact. Hes now in his second year in our system, so hes still learning.
Pitre said a summer in the weight room has him much stronger than his freshman season, when he made solid contributions. Im just trying to make the most out of every run, and the line has been great in front of me.
Fears would like Pitre to run a little lower because he stands up a little too high. But hes a powerful kid that we can rely on to get the key yards.
His presence Saturday could make a big difference.
SECTION 10 REDUX
In a quirk of scheduling, each of the four Northern Athletic Conference playoff matchups this weekend will be rematches of last weeks regular-season finales.
In Tier I, No. 4 Ogdensburg Free Academy (4-3) plays at No. 1 Potsdam (7-0) tonight and No. 2 Malone (5-2) hosts No. 3 Gouverneur (5-2) on Saturday.
The Tier II semifinals find No. 5 Massena (3-4) hosting No. 8 Canton (0-7) and No. 6 Tupper Lake (2-5) is home vs. No. 7 St. Lawrence Central (1-6) tonight.
Tier I and II finals are next weekend.
RED STORM RISING
Because Section 10 and Section 7 went their separate ways this season, playing their own schedules, some people have forgotten about the Section 7 clubs.
Saranac Lake, however, is rolling again, winning its first seven games while outscoring its opponents, 286-62. The Red Storm are ranked sixth in the state in Class C heading into a crossover game on Saturday against Moriah and will likely represent the section in the regionals against Section 10 on Nov. 2-3.
Peru (6-1), whose only loss was to Saranac Lake (27-7 on Sept. 1), is second, with Beekmantown (5-2) third and Ticonderoga fourth (4-3).
This weekend, the Section 7 Class B playoffs begin with Plattsburgh playing at Peru and Saranac at Beekmantown. The sectional finals are next weekend.
■ Several other North Country teams are state-ranked in their respective classes this week.
Indian River is 10th and Potsdam is 21st in Class A.
General Brown ranks 10th in Class C, while Sandy Creek is ninth in Class D.
Section 4 MESS
Section 4, which plays the Section 3 champions every year in the state quarterfinals, has a mess on its hands. And it may eventually be resolved in court.
It all concerns the Class D football seedings. Section 4s 17 Class D teams are divided into four divisions. Unatego, Harpursville, Groton and Tioga all went unbeaten in divisional play and finished no worse than 5-2 overall, so they automatically make the quarterfinals.
The fun began with filling out the rest of the field. The handbook posted on the sections website says, The D class will be ranked 1-8 using the Section 4 football ranking system, and the top four teams will have home field advantage.
That in itself doesnt assure the four division champs of playoff bids. But, they all went unbeaten in their division. Second-place divisional finishers were Bainbridge-Guilford (5-2), Walton (3-4), Union Springs (5-1) and Elmira Notre Dame (5-2).
There are reports that the Class D coaches agreed before the season that first- and second-place divisional finishers would make the playoffs, but that purported revision does not appear to have made it into print.
On Monday night, the Section 4 football committee voted to uphold the summer vote to advance the top two teams from each division into sectionals.
Pairings were released Tuesday, but there is at least a remote chance this could end up in court because a few teams that would have made the field under the ranking system were left out.
In the understatement of the year, longtime Walton coach Jim Hoover told the Oneonta Daily Star, The Section 4 football committee is in some pretty good trouble right now.