The offenses of Richmond-Burton and Coal City both will look across the line of scrimmage and see as close to an immovable object as they have all season.
R-B’s defense has allowed 74 points this season and has two playoff shutouts. Coal City has yielded 70 points and posted five shutouts this season.
Points may be scarce when
No. 3-seeded Richmond-Burton (10-1) visits No. 2 Coal City (10-1) in their Class 4A playoffs quarterfinal game at 1 p.m. Saturday. The winner moves on to the semifinal against the winner between No. 5 Marengo (9-2) and No. 1 IC Catholic (11-0).
“I don’t think it’s going to be a track meet,” R-B coach Mike Noll said. “In games where teams are evenly matched, it’s going to come down to turnover ratio and special teams play also. [Coal City] has no [defensive] weaknesses. They take the ball away better than any team I’ve seen on film this year. They’re stout up front. Their linebacker core is very impressive. All parts of their defense are very good.”
Coalers coach Dan Hutchings hopes his team can continue its propensity for takeaways.
“Turnovers, penalties and special teams are going to be very important,” Hutchings said. “If we get a turnover, we have to take advantage of it. We are going to have to be ready to match their physicality.”
R-B is back in the quarterfinals for the first time since 2011, when the Rockets were Class 4A state runners-up to Rochester.
“It’s crazy to think we’re this far,” Rockets running back-linebacker Dalton Wood said. “I know how much potential we have left and how high our ceiling is, and we haven’t reached it quite yet.”
Kyle Curran, an offensive tackle and defensive end, said this is what the Rockets have worked for since last season.
“It means a lot to the team,” Curran said. “It’s all paying off. Nothing’s better than being with the team and having success.”
Both teams are built on defense and strong running games. Noll, in his first season at R-B, preached defense first when he came to the Rockets in the spring.
“We’ve been a bend-but-don’t-break mindset,” Noll said. “I saw it Saturday (a 19-0 win over Genoa-Kingston). There were some plays down the field, and we always made a play on the ball. Defensively, it’s a team proposition. Our guys are in the right spots, they do their jobs, they read their keys, and then they swarm to the ball pretty well.”
R-B believes any offensive success may come from grinding out yards with its running attack.
“Just follow the basics of what we’ve done and do our routine,” Curran said. “You don’t really know [how high-scoring it will be] until you play them. It’ll be a great game to watch and play.”
It may require patience and persistence against Coal City’s defense.
“We saw teams run the ball against them but stray away from it,” Wood said. “Our offense, we build off our defense. We complement each other well. We’ll probably just pound the ball.”
The Rockets’ offense will contrast what the Coalers have seen in recent games.
“Our last four weeks have been against spread teams, so it’s been a while since we have seen a team that wants to be as physical as Richmond-Burton,” Hutchings said.