Sabers, Lakers each seeking first win in county clash

MANISTEE — Manistee Catholic Central football hosts Bear Lake in a West Michigan D League contest on Friday, with both teams vying for their first win of the young season.

MCC head coach Jake Szymanski says his team has been progressing throughout the season and he hopes that continues heading into the Week 3 matchup.

“We’re going to have to play a little bit better than we did last week,” he said. “We are definitely on the right course. We did a few things last game that were a huge improvement from the week before. We just have to keep building on that.

“We still have to take better care of the ball,” Szymanski continued. “We still have way too many turnovers. As long as we can take care of the ball and run the ball as effectively as we were able to last week, and on the defensive end, if we stick to our assignments and we tackle a little bit better, I think we’re going to be just fine.”

MCC topped Bear Lake 38-0 for a road win last season.

Bear Lake head coach John Prokes will have the Lakers (0-2, 0-1 WMDL) focused on trying to slow down the Sabers’ (0-2, 0-1 WMDL) running attack.

“They have a couple of athletes who can create some damage in the open field,” he said. “They’re kind of a dual threat, too, because they’ll pass the ball. They have some good athletes there. And then they have a big guy (Josue Hernandez) they can hand the ball off to and churn out some short yard stuff — it takes three or four guys to bring him down.

“We’ll have our work cut out with them, for sure,” Prokes continued. “They’re a well coached team and they’re going to be tough. They’re going to hit hard. They did last year — they always do. They’re going to bring the fight, so we have to be prepared.”

The Sabers enter the game off a 60-14 loss at Brethren (1-1, 1-0 WMDL) last week while the Lakers fell 28-0 to Baldwin (1-1, 1-0 WMDL).

Both MCC and Bear Lake were able to move the ball with some success last week, but were unable to cap their long drives with touchdowns.

“We were able to get down there, and then we’d have a couple of penalties and we just let that get us down and take away our momentum,” Szymanski said.

“Or we’d turn the ball over. Or we’d run the wrong route. We just have to keep that mental focus, so if we’re going on a different snap count, we know that snap count. If we’re running the route, we have to run the right route. If we run the wrong one we’re going to bring the defender over the top and that’s not what we want.

“If we can shore up that mental focus when we get inside of the 20, and if we can take better care of the ball, we’ll be able to put a lot of points up on the board.”

It is essentially the same story on the Lakers’ sideline. Bear Lake had the advantage in time of possession last week, but the Panthers were able to make big plays while the Lakers’ drives fizzled out.

“If you look at possession time and yards, we did very well in those categories,” Prokes said. “If you just looked on paper, you would have thought it was a close game or we would have won. It just seems like every time we got in the red zone or if we could even smell that end zone, we just collapsed a little bit. We made too many mistakes that cost us. We’re not at that level yet where we can afford to make many mistakes and recover from them.

“Again, our focus this week was looking at the positive things we did against Baldwin — moving the ball, controlling the ball — but now we have to finish,” he continued. “We have to get to that end zone and control the ball a little bit better than we did against Baldwin if we’re going to have any hope of holding off Manistee Catholic.”

The game kicks off at 7 p.m. Friday at MCC.

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