Updated Wed, Nov 16, 2011 4:55 pm
When Tri-Valley (11-1) faces off against Marion-Franklin (12-0) at Gahanna Lincoln Stadium for the Division II, Region 7 final on Friday, you will notice lots of similarities between the two teams.
The first thing to look at are the head coaches. The Red Devils are led by Brian Haffele, who, just like Scotties head coach Justin Buttermore, is in his eighth season at the helm. Haffele has made the playoffs every season at Marion-Franklin, while Buttermore’s squad has appeared in the postseason in five of the last six years. The biggest difference is the Red Devils have been this far back in 2009 and won that game, whereas this is the first time Tri-Valley will play in a regional final.
Things are just as comparable on the playing field as they are on the sideline. Both offenses are very balanced with Tri-Valley averaging 238.1 rushing YPG and 184.9 YPG passing, and Marion-Franklin posting 170.8 YPG on the ground and 177.5 YPG through the air. But the similarities do not stop there.
The quarterbacks for each team are almost mirror images of each other. Junior Nathan Strock has been impressive for the Scotties in his second season as the starter, throwing for 2,119 yards and 25 touchdowns while only tossing six interceptions. Strock is also a threat on the ground with 721 rushing yards and eight scores.
Marion-Franklin’s Corry Benson is also a two-year starter as well as a dual-threat. The junior has almost identical numbers to Strock, despite only appearing in 11 of the Red Devils’ 12 games. Benson has passed for 2,071 yards and 26 touchdowns with seven interceptions and run for another 523 yards and 11 touchdowns.
The running games are where there is finally some deviation. The Scotties running attack relies mostly on junior Austin Jones who has been extremely successful, to say the least. Jones averages 146.3 YPG and has scored 21 touchdowns. The Red Devils, on the other hand, have multiple players who run the ball. There is no single player who has dominated on the ground this season, but when all added together equals a potent attack that always has fresh legs.
With a regional championship and a berth in the state semifinals on the line, it is guaranteed that nothing will come easy. The playmakers for the Red Devils and Scotties must step up in the biggest game of the year if they want to extend their season.