Stopping potent offense is Titans' key to victory

West Hancock's Andy Bird, center, and Chase Hartweg (11) haul down Quincy Notre Dame's Dalton Venvertloh (26) during their game Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, at Advance Physical Therapy Field.
Phil Carlson 1|
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Nov. 11, 2017 12:01 am

HAMILTON, Ill. -- Kolton Johnson is content knowing good offenses will rack up the yardage.

He feels better knowing the West Hancock football team's defense will prevent those offenses from finding the end zone.

"Good teams are going to do that," said Johnson, a linebacker for the Titans. "We'll allow them to get yards. But those key moments when we need things done, we'll get things done."

That will be stressed in Saturday's Class 2A quarterfinal game as top-seeded West Hancock faces the high-powered offense of fourth-seeded Maroa-Forsyth. The Trojans (10-1) haven't scored fewer than 43 points in a game since Week 4, and since Sept. 22 Maroa-Forsyth is averaging 54.1 points per game.

The potency of the Trojans' offense isn't lost on the Titans.

"There's no bad teams left in the playoffs at any level," West Hancock coach Travis Cook said. "But we're a really good team. We just have to do what we've been doing. We can't do anything special."

West Hancock (11-0) has excelled at stopping teams in the red zone.

The Titans did that four times in the second-round victory over Bismarck-Henning last week. Four times the Blue Devils got inside the 20-yard line in the first half and each time they came up empty. Two of those times were the West Hancock forcing fumbles and the other times they turned Bismarck-Henning away on downs.

"That's just great timing," Cook said. "We tell the kids great teams find ways to win and great players make plays at the right time."

Johnson said a change in mindset helps West Hancock buckle down in the red zone.

"I think we just get mad that they've gotten that far," he said. "We have that grit and that want that we don't want them to score."

That helps change momentum.

"When you have that advantage and it gets taken away from you you get that adrenalin," Johnson said. "You have to work harder to get it back. Last week, we didn't give it back at all."

That will be key against Maroa-Forsyth, who isn't prone to turnovers. Sophomore quarterback Ian Benner has thrown for more than 1,200 yards this season and 17 touchdowns. He's only thrown four interceptions. The Trojans have only lost nine fumbles this season.

"We have to win the turnover battle," Cook said. "You just have to let the kids be comfortable with what they're doing and be athletes on the field."