Mendon is gearing up for its last home football game of the regular season Friday when the No. 2-ranked Hornets (Division 8) host Buchanan. After winning the St. Joseph Valley League championship, Mendon is looking to finish the regular season undefeated for the 11th time since head coach John Schwartz took over in 1989.
Buchanan is 2-5 overall and 1-2 in the Lakeland Conference this season but has lost its last three games by a combined 12 points, including back-to-back defeats by a single point to Cassopolis and Niles Brandywine.
Mendon might be without junior two-way lineman Cole Harrison Friday due to a reoccurring back injury. Having worked with a chiropractor this year, the 6-foot, 195-pounder reinjured his back in Wednesday’s practice. He was expected to start on both sides of the ball.
Senior kicker and co-captain Robert Riley, who has also dabbled at tight end and lined up at linebacker, took a shot to the knee earlier this week and missed Wednesday’s practice.
“We won’t know exactly what’s going on with him for another day or two,” Schwartz said Wednesday night.
The Hornets will also be without another key contributor because of academic ineligibility.
“They have a running back, [Doug] Freeman, and he’s a big-time back,” Schwartz said. “He’s 210 [pounds] and 5-foot-11 or 6-foot. He’s fast and runs with power. His whole problem is I’m not sure how well they’ve been blocking for him up front. Some of the games they’ve lost they shouldn’t have. They’re a lot like Cassopolis. Their quarterback can run with the ball. They have a couple of kids they like to throw to and we need to make sure we have them covered.
“We need to try to take away what they want to do and make them do something else. They can spread it out, but I’m not sure they really like to. They like to get in that pro set and run traps and powers and options at you. That’s what they like to do.”
Freeman rushed for three touchdowns and caught another last week. He finished with 146 rushing yards on 19 carries for the Bucks.
Mendon thrashed visiting White Pigeon 55-0 last week to win the final SJV crown, but that didn’t mean the Hornets were mistake-free.
“Not getting to the block as quick and not moving their feet,” Schwartz said of issues that were addressed this week. “A lot of that was footwork and stance. We went back to basics and tried to clean that up. Our inside linebacker scrapes … our kids are a little too aggressive there. They need to be a little more patient and not get caught up in traffic.
“DBs looking into the backfield. They got caught a couple times looking inside and didn’t have the coverage that maybe they should have. We had a couple fumbles and again, we had six penalties. Those are things we need to clean up.”
Schwartz explained how White Pigeon’s ability to slow Mendon down in the first quarter was a good thing for the Hornets.
“We take it down to their 25-yard line and get it called back because of a hold,” he said. “Those are the kind of experiences that are good for our kids. It took them a while to regroup. They’re used to just moving the ball and dominating right off the bat, and that’s not going to happen every game. It was a good experience for our kids. They came back and regrouped fine. Those are the kinds of things you can tell them all you want, but they have to experience it for it to sink in.”