Third-ranked Aurelia takes on top-ranked Adair-Casey for eight-man state title.
ADAIR - Two years ago, Aurelia decided to switch to eight-man football so that it would be more competitive. Myron Radke probably never imagined it would lead to this.
His team, in only its second season of eight-man football, will be playing for the state championship.
Aurelia, ranked third and 8-1 overall, faces top-ranked and defending state champion Adair-Casey on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. in Adair.
"It's really a great honor," Radke said. "I'm just tickled for our kids. It's been a great time for our kids and the community. That's the main thing."
The eight-man game has been very, very good to Aurelia. The Bulldogs have won 14 of the 17 games they have played including last week's 46-40 thriller over Sentral of Fenton in the state semifinals. Trying to make it 15 will be a stiff challenge.
Adair-Casey is 9-0 overall and hasn't lost a game while playing the eight-man game. It thumped fourth-ranked Lamoni 73-18 in last week's semifinals.
"They're big, strong, quick and rugged," Radke said. " I'm impressed with their overall strength. It's going to a street fight. Somebody's going to be first and somebody's going to be second."
Radke dropped his jaw when he heard the score of Adair-Casey's game with Lamoni.
"Their ability to score points concerns us," he said. "They're going to score some points. We're going to try and keep their point total down as much as we can, but I think we're going to have to score a lot of points, too."
Adair-Casey doesn't do anything fancy on offense, mainly interested in running the ball down the opponents' throat.
"They're pretty much a team where they like to run it," Radke said. "They'll run it. They don't like to pass it, but they can pass it if they have to. Their quarterback is a good one. He can take a licking."
"They like to run power stuff or blast plays right at you and then occasionally run enough counters to keep you honest."
Defensively, however, Adair-Casey will present a unique look for the Bulldogs.
"They run a 5-3 defense, which I've never seen before in eight-man," Radke said. "They spread their ends out quite a ways and they give different responsibilities to the defensive ends and they blitz their linebackers from time to time. They put a lot of people on the line and they really try to pressure you."
Radke is concerned about Adair-Casey's ability to score points, and the best way to keep their point total down is to keep their offense on the sidelines.
A key factor for Aurelia will not only be scoring many points, but also time of possession. The Bulldogs have to sustain lengthy drives in order to be successful on offense.
That means a heavy dose of running with halfbacks Heath Brecher and Brent Kai and quarterback Kasey Reilly.
"We have to control the ball as much as we can to keep them from scoring," he said. "We have to play smarter than we have before and as tough as we did last week. If we do that, we can play right with them. As a team, you can't give up anything because they'll take advantage and eat you up."
The Bulldogs are entering the game with a run-first mentality, but that may change throughout the course of the game.
"We're looking to establish the run on offense," Radke said. "We'll kind of do what it takes. We'll keep things loose. We're just going to take what they give us on defense."
Both teams will present problems for the other.
"I think our passing game will give them fits and their overall strength is what's going to be a problem for us," Radke said. "We have to move around and show them different things and sets, shoot some gaps, and take some chances."
Radke said being physical with Adair-Casey will also be important.
"We've just got to go out and smack them," he said. "They're so big and burly that we have to pound on them and pound on them and get back up. I don't know if they've been hit like we can hit. Hopefully not."
As expected, there is much anticipation among Radke's players this week in practice.
"They're wound up," he said. "They've come down (since last Friday's win) and are reloading. We'll just try to build it up to Saturday."