Chippewas find balance on offense

Quarterback Mason Swidorski and the Manistee offense rebounded from a shutout loss to McBain by blanking Lakeview on Friday. (Matt Wenzel/News Advocate file photo)

MANISTEE — After managing just four first downs and less than 50 yards of total offense during a 28-0 loss to McBain in Week 2, Manistee desperately wanted to establish an offense.

The Chippewas (2-1) did just that on Friday in their 32-0 win at Lakeview.

“I think we got closer to the type of distribution we need to have,” said Manistee coach Gus Kapolka. “I think our balance offensively was pretty good on Friday night.”

Seven different Manistee players combined to rack up 304 yards on the ground — led by senior fullback Dillon Rankin’s 112 yards on 12 carries — while junior quarterback Mason Swidorski completed four passes for 49 yards.

“We still have to improve a little bit on offense but we got an identity that game,” Swidorski said. “We were able to pass the ball well and that spread the defense out.”

Through three weeks, however, it’s the Manistee defense that Kapolka feels best about after the Chippewas secured just their third shutout since 2007.

“I think our scheme is good,” Kapolka said. “I really feel good about the job our defensive coordinator Don Demeuse is doing right now.”

That scheme hasn’t been changed much in recent years, Kapolka said, but the personnel obviously has and that makes a difference.

“The scheme that we’re playing this year is the same scheme that we’ve played really for the last five years with varying degrees of success,” he said. “But, when you’re solid everywhere on defense, it makes it difficult for people to really attack you in one particular weakness.”

Despite giving up 39 points in a season-opening win against Ludington and 28 to unbeaten McBain (3-0), the Chippewas have limited big plays.

“I think we have the potential to be a really good defensive team,” Kapolka said. “I think we’re athletic, I think we’re solid up front and I think the biggest difference is we’re very sound in the back end, which is where you don’t give up big plays, keeping the ball inside and in front of us. I feel really good about our defense right now.

“The secondary has played better,” he added. “I think we have guys back there that can make some plays whereas in years past, maybe we were trying to hide a guy or two. That’s what leads to big plays.”

The Chippewas will look to build off their win Friday when they travel to face Central Montcalm (3-0), which hasn’t allowed a point this season.

“That was a big confidence booster from us,” Swidorski said of Friday’s win. “We’ll keep moving on from it and hopefully have the same success against Central Montcalm.”

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