Friday night lights
Curt Fischer and the rest of his Maple Grove/Chautauqua Lake Thunder Dragons are well aware that the folks in Randolph are brimming with confidence heading into the pair’s critical Week 4 battle on tonight.
“They’re very convinced that nobody has a chance against them this year,” Fischer said ahead of the 7 p.m. matchup on Dutch Hollow Road. “They know how good they are.”
Randolph does have reason to be confident.
Winners of three straight to start the season – and 14 in a row dating back to last year – the Cardinals boast offensive and defensive lines unmatched, in Chautauqua County, at least, in size.
Thanks to that line dominance, they are able to employ both a bruising rushing attack and, on the other side, completely stifle that of their opponents. Led by senior running back Chris Doubek (12 touchdowns), the Cardinals have averaged 315 yards per game and eight per attempt, while their defense has held its three opponents, who without exception fell by lopsided margins, to 117 combined.
“The defense (has been the biggest key),” Randolph’s first-year head coach Brent Brown said. “In our first three games, our field position after the defense was finished has been at about the 50-yard line. When you’re starting in four-down territory every time, you’re going to have a lot of opportunities to score.”
Lastly, they’ve got an experienced and efficient quarterback in Mitch Maycock, who by taking care of the ball – he’s thrown just one interception in 31 pass attempts – and completing nearly 60 percent of his passes, has given opponents this year an added threat for which they must plan.
“They’re pretty balanced,” Fischer said. “They can run, they can throw – they’re doing it all right now and I expect them to do a little bit of everything. They’re clicking on all cylinders, you could say.
“Hopefully we can find one little chink in the armor. We’ve got to play a perfect game to stay in it.”
Luckily for Fischer, his Thunder Dragons have been closing in on perfect with each passing week.
After a slow start against Portville to open the season – it wasn’t until shifty runner Ryan Miller emerged in the second half that the Thunder Dragons finally pulled away – MG/CL has won its past two games by a combined 99 points.
Most recently, Miller racked up 154 yards on nine carries and scored three times (in the first half) in a 56-0 rout of Cassadaga Valley.
“They’re good,” Brown said. “They’ve got some good football players from Chautauqua Lake along with the usual (good players) at Maple Grove. They look fast and physical, and this team will come at you. They aren’t going to back down.”
It’s unlikely that either team will; not during a contest between the fiercest of rivals, and certainly not in a game that will – despite coaches’ reluctance to look ahead – likely determine this year’s league champion.
Last season, the teams split in their two meetings, with Maple Grove taking the Week 3 game (and, eventually, the league title), 27-14, and Randolph capturing the Section 6 Class D final at Ralph Wilson Stadium, 21-0.
“I think our guys are ready,” Fischer said. “Our team has worked our butts off, attending all the offseason stuff, and the kids are super excited. It’s going to be tough, but our guys are ready to accept the challenge.”