WEEK 5 PREVIEW: Louisville Leopards at Minerva Lions
Louisville Leopards (2-2) at Minerva Lions (4-0)
WHEN: Friday, September 23 at 7:00 PM
HIGHLIGHTS: Will be available following the game late Friday night or early Saturday morning right here on louisvilleleopards.org
ALL-TIME SERIES: Louisville holds a 59-19-5 record over Minerva.
LAST MEETING AT MINERVA: Louisville defeated Minerva 25-7 to complete an undefeated regular season season on October 30, 2009.
LAST MINERVA WIN: The Lions last won in Week 10 of the 2000 season when they mauled the Leopards 27-9. It marked the fourth straight victory for Minerva their longest of the series. Louisville has won 10 straight since that game.
Schedule So Far:
Louisville — Minerva
Walsh Jesuit L 26- 27 — @Field W 41-19
North Canton Hoover W 50-7 — @St. Thomas Aquinas W 29-26
@Ravenna L 6-31 — Tuslaw W 54-20
Marlington W 35-28 — Canton South W 48-20
This year will mark the first meeting since 1983 that Minerva and Louisville will play each other outside of Week 10. Since 1924 these two communities have met (other than a brief break from 1984-1988) making it the third oldest and longest rivalry within Stark County. Although the Leopards have won the last 10 contests, the 4-0 Lions under first year head coach Dale Soles are emerging as a team to be reckoned with.
OFFENSE: You can’t say anything about the Leopards offense, without first talking about Chad Neff. The Leopards Senior quarterback took his team on his back last week against Marlington leading them to a 35-28 gut-check victory. Neff bulldozed through the Dukes for 110 yards on the ground and two touchdowns, while also unleashing his aerial attack under the lights and cameras of Fox Sports Ohio with a 200 yard 2 touchdown passing performance. Neff is now the team’s leading rusher with 349 yards on 83 carries. He is also 65 of 105 passing on the season for 859 yards, and has 7 touchdowns verse only 4 interceptions. Beside Neff will be runningback Lucas Poyser who should be even healthier this week after playing with a sprained ankle last Friday. Poyser has amassed 300 yards and 5 touchdowns on the ground this year. We also saw the explosiveness of wide receivers Gavin Lovejoy and Trent Ohman during the Marlington game, as Lovejoy broke free for a 50-yard receiving touchdown and Ohman had a huge catch and run on the game-winning drive. Ohman has made 27 catches for 297 yards and scored a touchdown, Lovejoy has 13 catches for 215 yards and 3 touchdowns on the season. Another one of Neff’s targets, Billy Lairson, only has two catches on the year and both were in the endzone.
DEFENSE: The Leopards defense has recovered five fumbles this season, but has only intercepted a single pass. Louisville has held opponents to only 91 passing yards per game, but has been gouged on the ground for 222 yards. Minerva has a run-first offense, so Louisville will need to key in on the run in this one. The Leopards should be able to make Minerva one dimensional early turning this one into a rout.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Kick returns have been shared between Poyser, Ohman, Alex Schooley, and Dillon Stertzbach, who have a combined kickoff return average of 17.8 yards. Look for one of these returners to break a long return against a Minerva kick coverage team that has already surrendered two touchdowns this season. Ohman is also averaging 11.6 yards per punt return this season. At kicker, Merrick Storlie has hit 9 of 14 PAT kicks, but has yet to attempt a field goal. If you remember last week, Stertzbach stormed in for a huge blocked field goal before halftime to keep the Marlington lead frozen at 14-7. A couple more penetrating plays like that on special teams this week will help the Leopards bury the Lions.
OFFENSE: This season Minerva has a run-pass ratio of 3 to 1. Zach Wade hasn’t taken the majority of the carries, but has produced the most rushing yards at 614, has also found the endzone 9 times on the ground, and averages 9.6 yards per carry. Wade, who is listed on the roster as a wide receiver, does a little bit of everything for the Lions. To go along with his potent running game, he has amassed 148 yards receiving on 7 catches. Wade is second in the county in scoring with 66 points, scoring 10 touchdowns on offense and 1 on defense. His partner in the backfield, Junior runningback/quarterback Jake Riley, has taken the majority of the hand-offs this season carrying the ball 68 times for 435 yards and has ran in 7 touchdowns. Riley replaced Senior quarterback Eli Maurer after Maurer succumbed to a separated left shoulder in the second quarter of opening night against Field. Since then Riley has taken over at QB and has been 24 for 38 passing for 305 yards and 2 touchdowns. Wade moved from receiver to the backfield after Maurer’s injury. Riley’s main targets are wide receivers Kyle Crum and Tyler Klimko. Crum has leads the team in catches with 18, yards with 123, and touchdowns with 2. Klimko also has made 12 catches for 158 yards and 2 touchdowns.
DEFENSE: Minerva has scored four times in the last three weeks on defense. Against Aquinas they recorded a safety, against Tuslaw Kyle Crum ran back an interception 55 yards for a score, and against Canton South Wade had a 98 yard pick six & Mitch Soles scooped up a fumble and took it back 25 yards for a score. The Lions defense is surrendering only 266 yards per game, but has given up 5.6 yards per carry on the ground. Louisville will mix it up, but look for them to take advantage of Minerva’s run defense come Friday.
SPECIAL TEAMS: The Lions have the ability to be explosive as was proven last week against Canton South. Freshman Dalton Hartshorn returned the opening kickoff last Friday 85 yards for a score to begin Minerva’s rout of South. However, the Minerva kick coverage has given up touchdown returns this season to Field and Tuslaw. Look for the Leopards to come out exploiting this weakness. Junior kicker Nate Smith has converted 11 of 13 extra point kicks, but the Lions have yet to attempt a field goal.
Last week I felt I made a simple prediction that a very good Marlington team would beat the Leopards 27-17. My heart did and always will say the Leopards are going to win, but on paper it sure looked like the Dukes were gonna take it so I went with them. Either way my hidden secondary agenda in predicting Marlington worked, it turned out to be part of a fiery locker room speech that motivated our boys in blue to play 150% in a 35-28 statewide viewed victory. I’m not taking going to sit here and take credit away from the Leopards like the rest of the world does with the fumble near the end, but I don’t mind saying I’m glad my false prediction gave the Leps a little extra motivation in pregame!
So far I’ve picked the Leopards to win by 10+ once and they lost 31-6 and I’ve predicted them to lose by 10 or more once and they won 35-28. As tempted as I am to pick against Louisville every week from here on out to fire them up even more, I must be realistic here. Louisville has beaten Minerva ten straight times and as fired up as the 4-0 Lions might be to end that streak, Louisville is gonna feed off last week’s victory even more. They’ll have had eight days to think about the Lions come Friday. Just because the week during the season when we play them has changed doesn’t mean anything else will, Louisville wins big. LEOPARDS 44, LIONS 20
Number of Shutouts: Louisville-30, Minerva-7
Leopards Highest Margin of Victory: 1949 they won 73-0
Minerva’s Highest Margin of Victory: 1988 they won 50-6
Highest Combined Score: 73 Points – 1949 – Louisville 73, Minerva 0
Lowest Combined Score: 0 Points – 1940 – Louisville 0, Minerva 0; 1959 – Louisville 0, Minerva 0; 1962 – Louisville 0, Minerva 0
Longest Winning Streak: Louisville – 14 Games – 1970-1983
Longest Lions Winning Streak: 4 Games – 1997-2000
Total Points Scored: Louisville-1684 Minerva-866
Average Score: Louisville-20, Minerva-10