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  • Val T.

Week 6 football preview: Zehner seeks more physical Cavs against Winamac


Sports Editor, RTC

Winamac (1-2, 0-2 Hoosier North) at Culver (1-4, 0-3), 7 p.m.

There are two potential reasons why Friday’s matchup between Winamac and Culver might be intriguing.

  • The Winamac football team has not scored an offensive touchdown in two consecutive games. On the other hand, Culver is allowing 41 points per game.

  • The road team has won the Winamac-Culver matchup three straight years.

Winamac coach John Hendryx said an injury to offensive lineman Kyle Olds last week – Olds will miss this game too – caused him to shuffle the line.

“With Kyle Olds being injured, it didn’t affect one position. It affected three,” Hendryx explained. “And that was an issue. We just didn’t have to replace him. We ended up having to move two others, and so we actually ended up having three new guys in there.

“Hindsight’s 20/20, and if I had to do it again, I probably just would have replaced him and done the best we could have with his replacement and left the other two alone. I feel OK about it. We just have to finish off drives. We’ll move the ball down the field, and then we won’t get points scored, and you’ve got to get points scored.”

Winamac now has to adjust to take on Culver’s unique power-T formation with three running backs and two tight ends. It’s the only formation that Culver uses on offense. Hendryx said defending Culver’s offense, led by running backs Shane Shuman and Blake Thompson, is a “double-edged sword.”

“It makes it easier as far as the adjustments, but at the same time, they’re going to get a pretty good feel what you’re going to do,” Hendryx said. “Fortunately, we’ve had pretty good luck defending them. I think the key to them is you just have to have really good discipline. The three backs that they use are going in a lot of different directions all the time, and if you’re trying to chase all those guys around instead of getting your keys read, you’re never going to be to the ball.

“And then you’ve got to be physical. They’re going to put you in a phone booth with those 11 guys.”

Culver coach Mike Zehner echoed Hendryx’s thoughts about his own defense. The Cavaliers allowed 291 yards rushing in a 48-8 loss to Triton last week.

“We’ve just got to be more physical up front,” Zehner said. “We felt like they beat us at our own game. … They were more physical than we were. They won the battle up front. And obviously, with the offenses that we run – they run the wing-T and we run the power-T – and whoever was going to be the most physical team was going to win those games, and I felt like they beat us at our own game. That was the disappointing part. We’ve got to come to play a little bit better.”

Zehner said he is working on building greater trust between the players and coaching staff. He said they had a long film session Monday in which Zehner exhibited plays where the team made good defensive plays when applying lessons they had learned.

“Kids have got to be able to be coached and trust in what we’re talking about when we’re giving keys to read. … When we did things right, the way they were coached, good things happen. When they do it the wrong way, bad things happen.”

Zehner said that Winamac has been put in a tough position. Their first two games were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, and that made the adjustment more difficult as they get accustomed to Hendryx, who was hired as the new coach in May.

Zehner also praised Winamac’s defense, but he’s not sure what to expect Friday.

“I don’t know what they’ll throw at us,” Zehner said. “We get 10 or 11 guys in the box, and it looks a little different. But Coach is doing a lot of things they did at Knox. They do a nice job with it. They fly around. They’re fast. They get to the football, and they’ve got some nice linebackers. Obviously, we’ve got to make sure we pick those guys up and give them clean scrapes, or it will be a long night for our offense. We’ve definitely got our work cut out for us. That’s for sure.”

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