Game of the week: After opening-round wake-up call, Milan looks to get offense back on track against Tecumseh
Milan came into the playoffs with a perfect 9-0 record, barely tested in the last month of the regular season when it won each game by three touchdowns or more.
So coach Jesse Hoskins can see the good in the punch in the mouth that was his team’s 14-7 win over Carleton Airport Friday night. The Big Reds, against a team they had beat by 41 two weeks earlier, had their weaknesses exposed while still earning the win.
It was definitely a wake-up call, Hoskins said.
“I think in a lot of respects, it’s the best thing that could have happened to us,” Hoskins said.
Hoskins said his players arrived Saturday “humbled and refocused” as they began preparation for their home district title game against Tecumseh on Friday in the AnnArbor.com "Game of the Week" in which Milan will be going for its first district title since 2007.
The Milan vs. Tecumseh game won the Game of the Week voting with 997 of the 2,064 votes cast. The Pioneer versus Saline game came in second with 745 votes.
Practices this week have been sharp, as the coaching staff hones in on correcting the slew of offensive mistakes -- including dropped balls and missed blocking assignments -- that held the team to its lowest scoring output of the season.
“We just did a whole variety of things that we haven’t done all year,” Hoskins said.
In the fourth quarter of Friday’s game, needing a touchdown to avoid heading to overtime, Milan gave the ball to quarterback Robert Kanitz, who carried on every play on the last drive and scored the game-winning touchdown.
The 192-yard performance marked Kanitz’s continued emergence over the last three weeks. In a backfield that includes Washtenaw County’s leading rusher, Arthur Dukes, Kanitz has been in the spotlight for the last three weeks, averaging nearly 200 yards per game.
That mark includes a 256-yard performance against Lincoln two weeks ago, when the Railsplitters defense keyed in on Dukes, opening things up for Kanitz. With the game on the line Friday, Hoskins went with the hot hand.
“We just stuck with it because it worked,” Hoskins said.
The Milan defense, though, may need a little more help from the offense this week against the Indians. Tecumseh’s offense is averaging more than 35 points per game, led by 1,686 regular season passing yards from quarterback Ben Dreslinski.
But Hoskins said his gameplan centers around taking away Tecumseh’s running attack -- which put up 184 yards last week against Chelsea -- and forcing the Indians to pass.
That means Hoskins is challenging his team’s pass defense, which doesn’t see a lot of action in the Huron League, to shut down a team that has shown it can pass.
“Defending the pass is something that we work on every single day,” Hoskins said. “I wouldn’t say we’re at a disadvantage, I’d say it's a challenge for our guys.”