The Chester/J-I Hawks can win a share of the Northern C championship, but they have to beat powerful Simms tonight
The Chester/J-I Hawks are on the verge of doing something not many teams do, and that's repeat as Northern C champions.
But in order to that, they'll have to play their best game of the season, in their biggest game of the season. Tonight, the Hawks host the Simms Tigers at 7:30 in Chester, and the stakes couldn't be higher.
The Hawks are 7-1 this season, and are tied in the league standings with Belt and Simms, both also 7-1 this year. But the Hawks are also ranked No. 4 in the state in this week's power polls, and will host the No. 6 Simms Tigers tonight at 7:30 p.m. in Chester.
If the Hawks can find a way to get past the Tigers at home, they still have a shot at the conference title. But the Hawks will also need a little help from Centerville, as they take on Belt tonight as well. A Hawk's win and Belt loss means a league title for C/J-I.
"This game is huge," Chester/J-I head coach Jim Vinson said. "With our loss to Belt, we are in a must win situation if we have any thoughts of getting a conference championship. But we also need some help from Centerville, and I think they have a shot. They are finally healthy and I think they are like everybody this time of year. They have some bumps and bruises, but they also have a pretty solid team."
Belt defeated the Hawks 36-24 in week four, but Belt also defeated the Tigers 36-32 in week two.
But before the Hawks can hope for a little help from Centerville, they have to take care of business on their end. And C/J-I isn't as big as they have been in recent years, but that hasn't stopped them from rolling past teams in 2013.
"We aren't that big bruising team that we have been in the last few years," Vinson said. "But we are very physical, and we need to continue to play physical and take advantage of the opportunities that are there and the opportunities that we create and put the ball in the end zone."
An offensive advantage the Hawks have comes in the form of players like Justin May and Dell Harmon. May has the ability to bust a big run for a score on any carry, while Harmon has given the offense great balance with his arm. Harmon has connected very well throwing the ball with May out of the backfield, as well as with receivers like Tim Stokes. Cody Ramburg has also been big for C/J-I this season, on both sides of the ball.
And a balanced effort will be key by the Hawks' offense. In their best games of the season, C/J-I has proven their balance. And with the scoring ability by the Tigers' offense, balance and scoring ability will be crucial if the Hawks hope to keep pace.
"When we play good games, against good quality opponents," Vinson said. "It seems like our passing and running attack is very balanced. We have worked very hard this year to put ourselves in position to get into the end zone when get into the red zone, and that is something we struggled with early. Two years ago when we were 260 pounds across the line, we could have handed the other team the playbook when we got down near the goal line, because we ran power, power, power, but this year we have to stay balanced and use our speed when we need to."
The Tiger on the other hand, are that big and physical team that can take it right at the opposition. And that is what the Hawks are expecting tonight on their home field.
Under the guidance of first year head coach Joe O'Brien, the Tigers have gone from 2-7 a year ago to 7-1 this year. O'Brien is a former All American player and former Montana State University assistant coach. And his endless knowledge of the game has already done a complete 180-degree turn on the program.
With that, the Hawks can expect a heavy dose of senior quarterback Zeb Bloom, using his legs or arm to attack the defense. Bloom has great speed and running ability, and he puts that on display with a high powered option style offense. Bloom has also showed a solid connection with sophomore wide receiver Eric Pschering, a receiver that can stretch any defense and is no stranger to the end zone. Facing a high-octane offense behind a big and powerful line, the Chester defense knows exactly what they have to do.
"We have to play a very disciplined game against Simms." Vinson said. "They like that speed option and we have been telling our kids all week it is assignment football that is going to make the difference. They have to take care of themselves and relay on their teammates to do their jobs, and we will be fine. But Simms is big up front, and that is something that we come to expect out of Northern C football."
Tonight's matchup has all of the signs of a classic Northern C battle, the Hawks just hope it is them who come out on top. And with all that is on the line, they look to perform very well against a great team.
7:30 p.m., the Hawks will host the Tigers in Chester.