Monroe

Single wing attack... James Monroe junior Taylor Robertson runs for yardage during the Mavericks’ 48-6 win over Tolsia last Friday. James Monroe will host Magnolia in a Class AA quarterfinal playoff game this afternoon.

LINDSIDE — “Fundamentally sound.” That’s high praise, coming from an apostle of good football technique like James Monroe head coach David Witt.

The Mavericks’ opponent on Saturday afternoon in the Class AA quarterfinals, Magnolia High School, plays ball that way, Witt said this week.

After talking about the years that James Monroe has made the football postseason, Witt said about Magnolia, “They have a fine tradition of their own. They’ve been a team that over the past couple of decades has been in the playoffs … .



Magnolia head coach Mark Batton, on the other hand, said by phone on Tuesday that he will have to expect the unexpected — countering a single-wing offense that “we don’t see a lot of in these parts.”

“The newer style of the single-wing, we’ve seen a little of that, but not the old conventional single-wing like they run.”

Magnolia defensive coordinator Bob Ripley, who played in a single-wing attack many years ago, was immediately assigned to get “some of the old notes out,” Batton said. Reportedly they were in storage in his mother’s attic.

“We’re really relying on him to go back into the archives,” Batton said.

The Mavericks have produced one thousand-yard rusher after another. Taylor Robertson currently has 1,588 unofficially, and Nick Kisiel is only 71 yards away from that plateau. The passing game has yielded 11 completions in 40 attempts all season long.

James Monroe has averaged 373.9 yards per game in the regular season and 40.1 points per game. The Mavs gave up, on average, 12.2 points and 212.9 yards per outing.

As far as the JMHS defense is concerned, Batton said, “We definitely have to block well. We’ve graded films on them. I think they’re coached extremely well. Their line is strong and their linebackers and secondary get quickly to the ball.”

Magnolia’s top runner is Steven Zajdowicz, who has averaged 5.4 yards per carry on his way to 1,298 yards and 18 touchdowns. He handles the ball about 21 times per game. The passing game, from the arm of QB Justin Fox, has produced 883 yards, nine touchdowns and nine interceptions. His completion rate is 48 percent.

Concerning Zajdowicz, Witt said, “He’s got good size. He’s got some quickness and speed and some power to go with it. He’s a really good running back. He plays linebacker for them, too. He’s as good a linebacker as we’ve seen all season.”

Batton said his premier runner and all-state linebacker “has really come into his own. … He’s a hard runner to bring down. Some teams get tired of hitting him.”

Batton said his offense has “kind of mixed the run and pass up a little bit. The offensive line has been blocking real well.”

Magnolia reached the quarterfinals by shutting out Wyoming East last weekend, but Batton said, “We turned the ball over six times, so I wasn’t real pleased with that aspect. But the defense played extremely well. … We kind of put the defense in some tough predicaments but the defense came through when we needed them.

“We need that same kind of performance in this game coming up.”

Witt was asked if he was concentrating on Magnolia’s running game.

“We don’t sell out, concentrate, on anything,” Witt said. “As soon as you sell out, and concentrate, on a certain phase of the game, especially at this time of the year, they’re going to figure that out. You don’t get this far without having something to counter people trying to get very specific in preparation for you.

“Our philosophy is, we want to be fundamentally sound, scheme-wise, against whatever they can do, and we want to be fundamentally sound as far as individuals’ techniques — and that’s the approach we take every week regardless of who the opponent is.”

Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m. Saturday at the H.E. Comer Jr. Sports Complex.

— Contact Tom Bone

at tbone@bdtonline.com