For a White Pigeon football team that won just eight games in the previous three seasons, this year’s resurgence has re-energized the program and its fan base. The Chiefs are 4-2 overall and 2-0 in St. Joseph Valley League play with a trip to Mendon Friday to determine the final conference championship.
And it has taken some creativity.
Senior quarterback Matt Eger started the previous two seasons. His knack for making positive things happen with his feet has long been a staple of White Pigeon’s offense. But a dinged shoulder this year meant head coach Joseph Morsaw needed to look elsewhere for the majority of the team’s passing plays.
Junior Dylan Hochstetler, who has dealt with an ankle injury this season, has filled the role of co-starter seamlessly. The two combine to form a dynamic combo at the controls of the offense.
“Matt has gotten hurt a few times and I hurt my ankle one game, which is mostly why we’ve been switching around,” Hochstetler said. “We don’t really compete for the spot; we help each other out and tell each other which plays to run and what we could do better. The coaches are good about subbing us in different places to get us both in the game at the same time.”
Hochstetler has thrown for over 100 yards twice this year (wins against Union City and last week against Bronson). He’s accounted for 311 passing yards and four touchdowns so far in his first year on varsity. He credits the offensive line and a coaching chemistry for the team’s success up to this point.
“We’ve got a few couple new coaches, and our second year into this we have a little better idea of what we’re doing,” he said. “For our offense, we kind of try to do what’s best for our personnel and I definitely like that better. The line blocked pretty well (versus Bronson) and the backs had a couple nice runs. It allowed me time to throw and run for a couple yards. It was a pretty good win for us.”
Though opposing defenses know Eger is likely to take off and run and that Hochstetler is the team’s passing threat, Eger has kept teams honest with 17 passing attempts this season (122 yards and a TD).
“Our line has a different blocking scheme, which I think is helping,” Hochstetler said. “We have the power to fake and throw the ball, so I think the defense is kind of stunned for a second before we throw it. If they think we’re going to throw, we can also run right down their throats.”
Hochstetler acknowledged how big this week is for the Chiefs heading into hostile territory Friday with a lot on the line. Not only does White Pigeon have a shot at winning its first SJV title since 1984. Beyond that, the Chiefs need to win two of their last three games to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
“We know we are doing all right, but we know we have to do a lot more to get two more wins out of three [games],” he said. “We’ve got to hit the grind harder and harder each day — we know that — and I think we’re up for the challenge.
“We’ve got to win each day in practice, not mess around and not make mistakes. In our last game we had six penalties for 70-something yards. We definitely have to fix that. We have to work on our defense, and on offense find [Mendon’s] weaknesses and try to exploit those. It’s going to be a lot of fun. I think emotions are going to be high and I think we’ll be ready to play.”