By Jay Young
Undefeated and defending state champion Randolph (9-0) will come into Ralph Wilson Stadium on Friday for its 6 p.m. Section 6 Class D championship game against Maple-Grove Chautauqua Lake (7-1) riding a 19-game winning streak carried over from last year.
Maple Grove/Chautauqua Lake’s Ryan Miller, left, and Randolph’s Chris Doubek are their team’s leading ground gainers. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Jim Riggs
The Cardinals will look to pick up yet another sectional crown against a familiar opponent with a new look. The recently merged Thunder Dragons have inherited a Maple Grove rivalry with Randolph that stretches back for two decades, and is as contentious as they come.
"Whether it's Maple Grove or Maple Grove-Chautauqua Lake, the game still means the same thing," said Maple Grove/Chautauqua Lake coach Curt Fischer. "It means the same thing it has for 21 years, that we are facing a great team."
While Randolph has had a string of excellent teams in years past, few of them have been as imposing up front as Brent Brown's squad is this year.
Run blocking and pass protection for the Cardinals comes courtesy of an offensive line that averages more than 250 pounds, and whose players are over six feet tall across the board. That is the kind of size that you would expect to see in higher classifications.
"We have been relying on these guys all year long to keep us going," acknowledged Brown, "so obviously they will be a big part of Friday's game."
Line play has been a boon for Randolph quarterback Mitch Maycock, who has thrown for more than 600 yards and eight touchdowns on the season.
Senior halfback Chris Doubek has also benefited from tremendous blocking throughout the year, amassing 1,782 yards on 136 carries for 28 touchdowns. In addition to help from the line, Doubek has fullback Lucas Brown picking up initial blocks on many of his long runs.
The matchup will be a repeat of last year's sectional final, a game that Randolph won, 21-0. Overall, the Cardinals have an 8-5 record when playing at Ralph Wilson, while Maple Grove stands at 5-9.
Despite Randolph besting the Thunder Dragons by a score of 35-7 in their first game of this year, Brown understands his team will face a serious test on Friday.
See CLASS D, Page C2
From Page C1
"Looking back at that game it was close up until the end. We went into halftime only being up 14-7," he recalled. "Plus, that was early on in the year when Curt was just getting used to this merged team, so you know that come Friday they will have changed quite a bit."
Maple Grove/Chautauqua Lake has been the only team to get on the board first against the Cardinals this year.
"We really did play great in the first 20 minutes of that game," said Fischer.
With regards to their uninterrupted streak of victories, Brown doesn't see it as a consideration. Out of sight out of mind has been the approach of the Cardinals.
"If you asked some of the kids I'm sure they wouldn't even know about it," he joked. "It's not something we think about."
Asked about his plan to handle Randolph, Fischer noted that it will have to be a trial-and-error game plan.
"We'll have to go in relying on what we know and what we do best, and if that doesn't work we'll have to make adjustments," he explained.
Offensively the Thunder Dragons have spread the ball around during the majority of their games this year. Ryan Miller has been featured heavily in the rushing attack, totaling 109 carries on the year for 896 yards and 11 scores, while Gram Nelson has six scores and 315 yards. Also in the mix are Jed Micek and A.J. Hulton, who have each found the end zone twice. Jonah Tanner, a team captain, Hulton and Mitch Sandberg anchor a defense that has yielded only 53 points.