Football preview: Norway looks to rebound against LL-H

Teams square off for share of Mid Eastern Conference title

Norway’s Trevor Anderson carries the ball against Ishpeming on Friday, Sept. 1, 2017, in Norway, Mich. (Adam Niemi/Iron Mountain Daily News)

NORWAY – It wasn’t rock bottom, but it was a wake-up call.

After taking the first loss of the season to Newberry last week, Norway is focused on Lake Linden-Hubbell.

Beating the Lakes (3-3, 2-1 Mid Eastern Conference) won’t come easy with a share of the conference title on the line.

“They’re not huge on size, but they’re well coached, well disciplined and have a real nice scheme. This is a huge game for us. Last week we didn’t play our best game,” Norway head coach Bob Madigan said of the Knights’ 28-14 loss. “We got beat soundly and they got beat by Lake Linden soundly. We could make a statement and come back here. If we can beat this Lake Linden team, it’s a statement. We’ll tie for the Mid Eastern Conference with Newberry. It’d be us and Newberry in a tie for the conference. It’s a big game for us.”

Kickoff at Ronberg Field is 6 p.m.

Lake Linden-Hubbell, coached by Andy Crouch, has developed a rich football tradition with power run formations and a vicious and stubborn run-it-down-your-throat style. The Lakes pass the ball just a handful of times a game, with its mainstay a quick wide receiver screen pass.

Lake Linden-Hubbell beat Houghton 12-8 last week.

Conversation about the Knights (6-1) has largely been about its success despite the death last summer of 17-year-old Bryan Stanchina, who would have been a senior on the team. With last week being Parent’s Night, emotions ran high with Stanchina’s parents in attendance.

This week, luminaries will line the track around Ronberg Field, setting the scene for what could be another emotional night in the final regular season home game. Madigan said even though the season has had emotional overtones from the tragedy, the team still has to be focused during the game and primed to give their best performance, especially with playoffs around the corner.

“It’s a very emotional game. It’s a very tough thing to deal with especially when you’re a high school kid,” Madigan said. “It’s time to move on and deal with it the best we can do. We can’t be not thinking football before the game. We have to be focused on football for our school and our team. It’s a tough topic and it’s dominated our season.”

Both teams match up similarly in that they are run-first offenses with condensed formations and relying on deceptive fakes to freeze defenders for just a split-second to quickly gain yardage.

The Lakes mainly run a Full House T formation and also utilized fakes to freeze the defense. Madigan said the similarities don’t stop with the X’s and O’s.

“We win football games because we don’t make a lot of errors and we run the Wing T which is a deceptive offense – pulling a lot of guards, a lot of misdirection, a lot of angle blocking,” Madigan said. “That’s what they run, they run a Full House T where they just bring the wing back into the backfield and they do a lot of fakes. They’re similar type offenses.”

Madigan said the emotional aspect of the game factored partly in the team coming out flat, but it was also how the Knights prepared.

“I think we made a little coaching error last week in the fact that we focused a lot on Newberry. We did a lot of Newberry offense and how to defend stuff. We got away from what Norway does,” Madigan said. “Everything Newberry did, we had a different thing to do. We didn’t do our fundamental block, tackle, hit aggressiveness and I think that hurt us. We played flat. I think it was because the guys had too much thinking and not enough doing what they’re supposed to do.

“This week, we said back to the basics. We’re going to down-block, trap, drive block and on defense we’re coming at you.”