UTICA — Both teams have been treated badly by their opponents in the first two weeks of the season, but week three features an opportunity for one team to get out of the winless column. The Utica Redskins host the Fredericktown Freddies this Friday night in a nonconference battle of a pair of improving teams. Come kickoff time, at 7 p.m., we will see which team has improved more.
Both teams have focused on building a strong running game this season. The freshman packed Freddies managed to move the ball on the ground pretty well against a tough Madison Plains team last Friday. Running backs Mason Finnell (57 yards), Cory Webb (41 yards), Teegan Ruhl (24 yards) and quarterback Terry Fearn (48 yards) lead the Freddies’ ground game that combined for 165 yards.
“Offensively, we are trying to establish the run, in order to open things up in the passing game,” said Fredericktown head coach Beau Wolford. “We got behind early last week. That didn’t make things easy. Our plan is to get up first and maintain that lead. We have to make sure that we are establishing the line of scrimmage.”
In the meantime, Utica’s running attack awakened last week against East Knox with Brier Harris (42 yards) and Ethan Adams (49 yards), putting in good performances for the Redskins against the dominant East Knox Bulldogs. The Redskins ran for 108 yards, as a team.
If it is fair to say that the Freddies running game has a slight edge, right now, it may also be fair to say that the Utica passing attack has a little more of an edge. Perhaps part of that is due to Freddies’ coach Beau Wolford’s switch, away from last season’s spread-oriented offense. Still, Fearn was 5-for-8 passing last week for the Freddies. Still, the Freddies’ passing attack can be deadly, when the ground game gets rolling and they will give Utica’s defense a difficult time.
“We just have to get better, every week,” said Utica head coach Charley Rowley. “Football is a game of blocking and tackling and, if you don’t do those well, you will not play very well. That’s been our focus. Defensively, we’ve got to tackle a lot better. Fredericktown is a physical team and they are going to come right after us.”
Utica’s Collin McCullough tossed a pair of touchdown passes in last Friday’s game, going 9-for-19 for 147 yards. Seven of those passes, including both touchdowns, landed in the sure hands of Utica tight end Clayton Cummons. Not only did Cummons score both Utica touchdowns, but he battled for the football against some tough defenders.
“Clayton is a big weapon for us,” Rowley said. “He’s got some size and speed and he’s got good hands. (Last week) he went up for the ball and won that (first) catch. That was no fluke play. Those are plays we know he can make all the time.”
Both teams, whose defenses gave up over 300 rushing yards last week, are very wary of the big play. The Redskins’ defense was handled at the line and in the secondary by the blocking of the Bulldogs upfront and along the perimeter. That allowed East Knox running back Caleb Gallwitz to run for six touchdowns and 306 yards. They will need to watch the big play against Fredericktown, whose lone touchdown on Friday came on a 69-yard run by Fearn.
The Freddies, who lost three fumbles last week, will need to control the football. They will also need to watch out for the big play and not just from Cummons. Utica has Ethan Adams, an all-purpose player and a scoring threat, who can run the ball or become an extra receiver.
“We’ve definitely got to do a better job tackling.” Wolford said. “We have to make sure we are wrapping, grabbing and swarming on the football. Last week, we gave up a couple of big plays downfield. We let receivers get behind us. We want to be able to read keys well and get better week-by-week.”