FOOTBALL: Kenton-Wapak pits top offense vs. top defense
When the 2011 Western Buckeye League football schedule was released, eyes were instantly drawn to Week 10.
Kenton vs. Wapakoneta.
The buzz was immediate.
All the two teams had to do was survive the toughest WBL gauntlet in recent memory.
Each had their too-close-for-comfort moment — the Redskins’ 14-13 win over Bath in Week 3 and the Wildcats’ 30-28 win over Elida in Week 6.
But they came out on top. And now, here it is, Week 10.
9-0 vs. 9-0.
Wapak is ranked seventh in Division II in the latest AP state poll. The Wildcats are No. 1 in Division IV.
On the line, a WBL title. It would be Kenton’s fourth in a row and the first for Wapak since 2006.
The percentage of high school football players who get a chance to play in a game of this magnitude is minute.
They write movie scripts about games like this.
The Wildcats bring in the No. 1 offense in the league. Wapak, the No. 1 defense.
“They’re the king of the Western Buckeye League until they’re dethroned,” Wapak coach Doug Frye said. “You’d have to call us the underdog going into this game.”
Kenton, behind Missouri-bound quarterback Maty Mauk, is averaging 524.3 yards — 406 of that passing — and 46.4 points per game.
The Wildcats have obliterated opponents, winning by more than three touchdowns on six different occasions.
Along the way, Mauk has rewritten the record books once penned by older brother Ben, who now serves as the quarterback coach under Kenton head coach Mike Mauk, their father.
The youngest Mauk has thrown for 3,403 yards and 43 touchdowns this season alone.
Those numbers are a career for most high school quarterbacks.
He has completed nearly 70 percent of his passes this season (246-of-361) with just eight picks.
“We’re going to have to take care of the football. That’s the No. 1 thing,” Frye said. “We’re going to have to make sure we don’t give them big plays. They’re going to get their yardage. They’re going to move the chains. ...
“We have to make sure that after their initial catch or once Maty breaks into the open, we don’t give them big, big runs. We have to make them earn their drives.”
Maty Mauk also leads the team in rushing — Kenton rarely lines up with a running back in the backfield. He is sixth in the WBL in rushing with 1,037 yards and 14 touchdowns. His 7.9 yards-per-carry average is the best in the league.
“His scrambling ability is the X-factor,” Frye said. “Obviously you know he has a great arm and he has very good receivers and they’re going to make plays.”
Kenton pulls out all the stops — going for the two-point conversion on every score and routinely employing the on-side kickoff.
Teams have used different game plans in trying to counter the Wildcats’ aggressive attack.
Elida put its faith in the ever-reliable leg of kicker Nathan Jenkins, only to lose by two points.
“You have to be able to match their points,” Frye said.
Defiance saw this and tried to go for two on every score, only to find the end zone just twice in a 54-15 defeat.
A year ago, Ottawa-Glandorf handed Kenton its only defeat by dropping virtually its entire defense back into pass coverage.
The Redskins defense comes in limiting opponents to a league-best 268.6 yards and 12.4 points per game.
Wapak has held opponents to two touchdowns or fewer six times this season.
Frye has something up his sleeve.
But he’s not talking.
“We’ll have multiple strategies on defense,” Frye said.
Off the record?
“We’ll have multiple strategies.”
Frye has faced Mike Mauk’s all-out spread attack 12 times in his head-coaching career, both at St. Marys and Wapak, and will draw on that experience Friday night.
“There are things we’ve done right and things we’ve done wrong,” Frye said. “And there are things we’ve done right and still haven’t been successful.”
Wapak is second in the league in scoring (39.3) and third in yardage (387.3).
The Wildcats, defensively, are third in yards allowed (294.4 per game) and fourth in scoring (20.2 per game).
“Every year their defense is scrappy, up-tempo, gets after you, tries to create turnovers,” Frye said. “It’s a very, very solid defense.”
If there is an area Kenton is vulnerable, it’s against the run.
Bath’s Aaron Smith bashed his way to 242 yards against the Wildcats. And Defiance’s Nick Lopez rushed for 187 yards last week.
“A lot of emphasis is put on defending Mauk and the spread offense,” Frye said. “The best way any team can defend that is to run time off the clock. ... The better we do at that, the better chance we have for success.”
This much is for sure, this game will be one for the ages.
“I don’t believe either team will keep anything in the barn for the playoffs,” Frye said.