Mendon shifts from the unknown to familiar territory when it hosts St. Joseph Valley League opponent Bronson tonight to start conference play. The No. 2-ranked Hornets are 4-0 after roughing up Gary (Ind.) Lew Wallace last week. Head coach John Schwartz didn’t know much about that program. He’s knows the Vikings (1-3) very, very well.
Mendon leads the all-tie series 23-3 dating back to 1979. Since Schwartz took over in 1989, the Hornets are 21-1. Bronson was victorious (21-17) in 2006. And in the final year of the SJV, Mendon wants to add another win to the history book.
“We’d like to go out winning the SJV for the last time together,” he said. “Our kids will be ready. It’s sad. You could count on a good game week in and week out. We had our game with Schoolcraft every year, you had good competition and it got you ready for playoffs. The way it is now, you have to look for games and you never know — just like when we played Gary — what we’re getting into. As it turned out, they weren’t that good. The old SJV kept us playoff-ready.”
The league has changed over the years, but the Hornets haven’t done anything different in terms of preparation. And Schwartz said, “We’ll probably never change.”
“They look forward to making the playoffs, and depending on how many [regular-season games] you win, you get two or three playoff games at home,” Schwartz added. “The more you win now, even though you make the playoffs, you have a better chance of doing well if you play at your place. That’s motivation for the kids.
“They want to play at home on a Saturday afternoon. There’s nothing like it.”
One positive result of having to schedule so many nonconference games is that Mendon has seen several spread offenses, which Schwartz said is prevalent come playoff time.
Junior tailback/linebacker Elijah Klepper missed last week with a deep thigh bruise but is expected to play tonight.
“He hadn’t played in a week or so,” Schwartz said. It’s just rest [that helps]. After a week, though, we made him go to the doctor and get an X-ray. If it stays that sore that long, we wanted to make sure there wasn’t a fracture or something. Everything was fine; it was just a deep bruise. At least we got one of our running backs back.”
“We see the best of those three [SJV] schools,” Schwartz said. “They’re going to do something different against Mendon. You have to cover all the bases. We usually see people that play hard against us. I can guarantee the best game they play will be against us. That’s good for us. We want people to play hard and play their best. That forces us to do the same. Kids are kids; you can tell them what you want, but a lot of times they play down to the competition. Once you hit the playoffs, you can’t do that.”
The Vikings, which lost to Cassopolis and Pittsford by a combined score of 90-0, line up in a pistol offense but utilize the wing-T out of the formation with traps, options, rollouts and boots. Defensively, Bronson brings a lot of pressure and loads up the box.
“Like they’ve always had, they have big linemen up front,” Schwartz added. “We need to move them.”
“I guess the surprise would be [tight end] Kaleb McCarroll. Since we lost our tailback [Mitchell Coler, knee],” Schwartz said. He’s learning the position pretty quick and he starts on defense. He’s probably playing better than we expected him to. He has really improved. He hits like a banshee. I’ve always fallen in love with those kids. We have a handful this year that really smack you. We didn’t have a lot of that last year.”