Overcoming challenges are what life, and particularly sports, is all about.
Perhaps no team in the 2012 state playoffs faces a bigger challenge than the Edgewood Warriors.
Not only will the Warriors have the difficult task tonight of trying to beat a 10-0 Brookfield team that defeated Edgewood 49-13 earlier this year, but the Warriors were blind-sided by legal case on Thursday afternoon that knocked them out of the playoffs... then back in.
Edgewood heads to Girard for a neutral-site game that will be its first playoff game in school history (7 p.m., WFUN).
With the off-the-field issues behind them, the Warriors face a daunting task in playing a very complete and talented Brookfield team.
I had the opportunity to watch film of Brookfield’s season finale against LaBrae, a 48-17 win to finish its 10-0 season and clinch the top seed in Division IV, Region 13.
After watching Brookfield, it’s no surprise the Warriors of Trumbull County are undefeated.
Brookfield features a balanced attack that is as dangerous out of the spread with four receivers as it is in the power-I with three backs and one receiver.
Brookfield likes to spread the field with four receivers (sometimes with doubles and other times with trips and a receiver split wide) and run read-option with quarterback Jeremy Quinlan and tailback Ryan Mosora.
Mosora typically garners the attention of opposing defenses when the Brookfield comes out in the spread, leaving holes for Quinlan, who is capable of taking advantage of them as he rushed for more than 800 yards this season.
On the edge, when Brookfield does choose to go to the air, Quinlan typically looks for 6-foot-4 receiver Collin Harkulich, who knows how to use his size and leaping ability to his advantage when facing undersized defensive backs. Harkulich snagged six touchdowns during the regular season and averaged 16.1 yards per catch.
Joe Clark is Brookfield’s second-leading receiver, but he’s as dangerous on the ground as he is through the air.
Clark typically lines up in the slot and will be put in motion, either to receive a handoff, get set for a bubble screen or be used as a diversion to open things up for Quinlan and Mosora. It’s been effective as Clark has had nine combined touchdowns on the season.
Out of the power-I, Brookfield predominantly tries to pound the ball up the middle (mostly to the right side, with a guard pulling), but don’t be surprised if Quinlan drops back and throws to Harkulich, who is typically the only receiver running a route out of such formations.
When Brookfield goes to its power-I look, it typically does so for an entire series. Against LaBrae, Brookfield alternated series between the spread and power formations.
Defensively, Brookfield runs a 4-4, predominantly with a cover-3 look.
The outside linebackers for the Warriors close out into the flats quickly, cutting off anything within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, while two corners and one safety make up the cover-3 look that handles anything down field.
With that said, don’t be surprised if Brookfield will break out of that zone and play man if the situation calls for it.
When LaBrae would motion out of its original call, instead of panicking or checking out of the original call, the Brookfield defense would simply adjust it’s coverage to a man look.
That isn’t to say the Warriors’ defense is impenetrable.
The Vikings were able to move the ball up and down the field against Brookfield, but turnovers proved costly. Harkulich alone intercepted three passes in the second half of the win.
The heart and soul of the Brookfield defense is Jimmy Quinlan, the twin brother of quarterback Jeremy. Jimmy has been the Warriors’ leading tackler for the last three seasons.
On special teams, Jeremy Quinlan is the team’s punter and kicker. When punting, Quinlan will likely offer little in terms of return opportunities as he’ll simply boot the ball over any returners head or is capable of angling it out of bounds, rendering the returner irrelevant.
With Quinlan as the team’s kicker, it also offers interesting opportunities for Brookfield to try things on extra points and field goals.
Twice against LaBrae, the Warriors successfully ran fakes for 2-point conversions.
If Brookfield has a flaw, it would be penalties. It racked up 104 yards in penalties against LaBrae and averages 10.3 penalties per game on the season.
While Brookfield has the explosion on offense to overcome first- or second-and-20-plus situations, such situations typically provide opportunities for the defense.
Edgewood must take advantage of those opportunities, either with turnovers or by getting off the field.
Offensively, those who have actually seen Brookfield play know the focus for Edgewood must be to move the football. Even if it doesn’t score, if the Edgewood offense can pick up first downs and chew valuable time off the clock, it will greatly improve its chances of winning.
Often, the best defense can be an offense that eats up the clock and keeps the opposing offense off the field.
With the game moved to turf, field conditions shouldn’t play a factor, although the weather forecast is calling for rain, which could deter Brookfield from running some of the shotgun formations that it likes.
In the end, the Warriors team that can move the ball and take advantage of the opposition’s mistakes will be the one that survives to play a 12th game in the 2012 season.
Peluso is a sports writer for the Star Beacon. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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