'Same' Lancers await Hounds
A year ago, the Monessen Greyhounds came within seconds of reaching the WPIAL Class A semifinals in their tough 24-21 loss to Neshannock in the quarterfinals.
The teams get together again at 7:30 p.m. today at Chartiers-Houston, and while Monessen coach Andy Pacak has had enough game tape from this season to judge the Lancers (8-2), he doesn't have to look much further than last year's game tape to get a good read on tonight's opponent.
“They really are pretty much the same team we played last year,” Pacak said. “They have a lot of the same skill people and the whole line is back. We're pretty much preparing for the same team, the same scheme.
“And like last year, it's a good team with a good scheme. They have the same thing that I like to think we have: three or four kids on offense who can absolutely kill you on any given play.”
Pacak said that while Lancers quarterback Ernie Burkes and running back Eli Owens appear on paper to be the top guns, his chief concern comes from the Lancers' offensive and defensive lines.
“They are pretty solid up there with a lot of veteran guys back,” he said. “Their line concerns me. We're going to need our guys up front on offense and defense to do their best to control the line of scrimmage.”
Defensively, Pacak said the plan for the Greyhounds is simple against the Lancers' spread offense.
“Everybody has to maintain their area on defense and not go chasing and get out of position because that is when they will cut back and kill you,” Pacak said. “They do things to try and get you out of position and take advantage of that. We have to be disciplined on defense.”
Pacak also knows another way to thwart a spread offense.
“It's been said time and time again that the best defense is to control the ball on offense,” he said. “All year long, we have been such a big-play team, getting things done in huge chunks. But all week, I've been telling our guys that getting four, five yards at a time this time of year is a good thing. That's the way to get things done.
“Controlling the ball and finishing drives will serve us well at this time of the year.”
The Greyhounds have the kind of attack that could be capable of controlling the football with the running back tandem of Clintell Gillaspie and Javon Brown. While Gillaspie (10.0) and Brown (8.5) both have large per carry averages, Pacak knows those numbers will be tested against a defense like Neshannock's.
Still, there is recipe for success there.
“Clintell and Javon are both talented backs. They are seniors. This is what they have worked all season for — what we all worked all season for,” Pacak said. “They have what it takes to get the job done.
“It's just a matter of doing it.”
The winner of tonight's game will get the winner of No. 2 North Catholic (10-0) and No. 7 Avonworth (9-1) in the semifinals.
PRE-GAME NOTES: The Greyhounds have only made the semifinals once in Pacak's 10 years, despite going to the playoffs nine times ... Pacak said his team is as healthy as it has been all season going into the game ... Pacak said a key to the game could be the Greyhounds' kick and punt return teams in establishing field position.
Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or firstname.lastname@example.org.