White Pigeon is 2-0 for the first time since 2009 and has won back-to-back games for the first time since 2010. Watervliet, an honorable mention just outside the top 10 in the Associated Press Division 6 poll, comes to town Friday undefeated after trouncing Southwestern Athletic Conference foes Gobles (43-14) and Bangor (49-12) — both home games — to start the year.
With White Pigeon’s entire starting backfield back this season, head coach Joseph Morsaw expected the running game to be his team’s bread and butter. The Chiefs have been able to run at will through a 2-0 start, but it has been the play of their offensive and defensive lines that have been perhaps most reliable.
“Our backfield has been solid, but we have had a few juniors and seniors step up on the [offensive and defensive] line and are doing well to hold their own in the trenches,” Morsaw said. “They are working well together and moving people on the inside. Our other strength is our 4-3 defense which has been hustling on every play and communicating well during games.”
“We have a few players with sore ankles, but nothing major to report,” Morsaw said. “We are just trying to beat the heat this week during practice and looking forward to a cool Friday night.”
“Our seniors have taken control of the team and are truly leading our younger players,” Morsaw said. “Many seniors were leaders by example and are really coming into their roles … not afraid to call themselves out or other players if things are not getting accomplished during practice. Another positive is the versatility of many of our players to play multiple roles on the defense.”
Using a spread offense that incorporates the read option, Watervliet simply wants to find ways to gain yards on the ground and then strike when the passing game opens up. Quarterback Luke Traver is the most dangerous player on the field. He has completed 26 of 40 passing attempts this year for 398 yards, four touchdowns and only one interception. He’s also rushed for 214 yards and seven scores.
“They try to create space in the open field and dare your athletes to make plays,” Morsaw explained. “Our players have been making plays in the open field for the last two weeks and must be disciplined enough to stay home and continue to make the plays in their part of the field — 11 players every play.
“Defensively they try to use the speed of the defensive line to put pressure on the backfield. We are looking to hit the line quickly with our offense and to get past them before they are in the backfield.”
Senior running back/safety Cahil Krajniak (5-foot-11, 157 pounds) has seen some interest from Division III Adrian College and senior linebacker/running back Chas Rathburn has had contact from NAIA program Siena Heights.