Andy Pacak thought long and hard when asked if there was an opponent his Monessen Greyhounds had faced this season that reminded him of Neshannock, tonight’s foe in a WPIAL Class A quarterfinal contest.
“They play a wide-open, deceptive spread offense,” Pacak said. “With the exception of Carlynton, pretty much every team we played this year used some version of the spread.
“(Neshannock’s) is high-octane, for sure. They are pretty impressive. They run it hurry up and have a good quarterback with good receivers and a good running back.”
OK, but do the Lancers remind Pacak of anyone in particular?
“Well, maybe they seem a little like Springdale, but their quarterback can throw the ball a lot better,” Pacak said. “Like Springdale, they like to get you to go for the fake.”
Monessen (9-1) and Neshannock (9-1) meet at 7:30 p.m. at Chartiers-Houston.
Pacak said one of the things he has been stressing in practice is for his defense to “stay home.”
“We have to hold our positions and make the play,” he said. “(Neshannock) wants you to chase the fakes. We can’t do that. If we do what we are supposed to do, we will be fine.”
The Greyhounds’ defense has been playing well since a 52-7 thrashing at the hands of Clairton in the fourth week of the season.
“The thing for us is we can’t give up the big play,” Pacak said of his defense. “We’ve done a good job, for the most part, of avoiding that since the Clairton game.”
Offensively, the Greyhounds will need to control the football against the Lancers.
“A ball-control offense is often your best defense,” he said. “If we keep the ball and eventually score, then they can’t have it.”
And while the veteran Monessen coach does not want to get into a shootout with the Lancers, who average 40.9 ppg, he was quick to add, “You know, we have a weapon or two on offense, too.”
Chavas Rawlins is the trigger man for Monessen’s explosive offense. He has thrown for 1,253 yards and 12 TDs and is the team’s leading rusher with 546 yards. He has scored 16 TDs in a variety of ways.
Rawlins has a stable of talented players to get the ball to, including receivers Clintell Gillaspie (21 receptions, 507 yards, 24.1 average per catch.) Irvin Green, who caught three passes for 73 yards and a score in last week’s 48-19 win over Apollo-Ridge, and Javon Brown, who has eight TDs on the season. Another target is his brother, Justice Rawlins, who hasn’t put up big numbers this season as a receiver/running back, but has caught big passes in key situations.
Gillaspie has also rushed for 530 yards, averaging nearly 8 yards per carry.
“I’ve never worried about our offense,” Pacak said. “We have the ability to score from anywhere and there isn’t one player a team can key on.”
Pacak said his players are excited to play the game. He added that his team has been feeling disrespected with its No. 5 seed.
“I think they’ve been a little angry since the pairings were announced and it showed (against Apollo-Ridge),” Pacak said. “They thought they would get a better seed. They feel like they have something to prove.”
PREGAME TIDBITS: The Greyhounds will play without linebacker/running back Keith Davis, who won’t be at the game. He will be replaced on defense by freshman Demond Jordan … Pacak said two Greyhounds who were injured last week, juniors Brown and Kayne Jackson, will play against Neshannock … The winner will meet the winner of the Clairton-Brentwood game in the semifinals.
Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or firstname.lastname@example.org.