MINSTER — The good news in playing a Springfield Catholic Central team that is largely unchanged from a season ago when a 5-5 Minster squad stunned the top-seeded Irish is that the Wildcats knows what to expect.
“I think it helps having played them before,” Minster head coach Nate Moore said on Tuesday. “It’s kind of a been-there, done-that thing. We’ve been to their place and seen what the locker room is like, what the field is like. All those little things about going to new place? We don’t have to deal with those.”
“I think it’s going to be useful,” lineman Clay Bornhorst said. “We now at least a little bit of what they’re about. It’s a new year and everything, of course, but it gives us an advantage knowing we’re playing against the same team as last year.
The bad news is that Minster knows what to expect — a wide-open Fighting Irish attack engineered by a freewheeling southpaw who is one of the Dayton area's best quarterbacks.
The Wildcats are a more complete football team than they were a season ago when it scored the game’s final 23 points in the second half to run away with a 44-21 game at Springfield.
But Fighting Irish quarterback Brian Kelly is a year older and his targets are all there from a season ago, as well.
"I think he's definitely in the top five in the Dayton area in stats, probably in the top three," Moore said.
The southpaw quarterback finished last year’s playoff game going 12-for-22 with 251 yards, three TDs and an interception.
This season, Kelly engineered a spread offense with 2,451 yards passing with 12 TDs.
Minster’s defense, which led the MAC giving up 11.6 points per game, held opponents to just 1.8 yards per carry, will be tested by a Springfield Catholic Central offense that is skilled, experienced and improvisational.
“Brian Kelly is a very good quarterback,” Nate Moore said. “He throws a really good ball and he’s a left-hander. It seems like lefties are really good at putting touch on the football...He likes to throw the ball deep — a lot. He’ll take chances. He has a lot of faith in his receivers to get the ball...He’s good at extending plays and throwing back across the field, so we’ve got to be aggressive but stay on our man or in a zone stay disciplined.”
Senior wide receiver Jake Aldridge is Kelly’s favorite target. At 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds, Aldridge is over 900 yards receiving and is a deep threat.
“He’s very athletic and physical,” Moore said. “And they’ve got most of their receivers back. They’re a very skilled group.”
Brad Kelley, Dimitrious Dimitroff, Ryan Weeks and tight end Reed Buxton, all are part of an impressive receiving corps that surrounds the Kelly-to-Aldridge duo.
Moore talked a lot about pressure being one of the big keys to this game.
Minster has sacked opposing quarterbacks 39 times this season, with outside linebacker Daniel Gusching leading the way with nine sacks. Rob Wente has six sacks, Ryan Will has 5.5 sacks and Clay Bornhorst has five sacks.
Moore is looking for more of that kind of pressure on Saturday night against Kelly and the Irish.
“We’ve got to get guys in (Kelly’s) face,” Moore said. “I don’t know of a high school quarterback who likes pressure. This is not the NFL. These are 16 or 17 year old kids, so I think the key is to get in his face and for our DBs to have faith in the guys up front that they’ll get to him so that the DBs can play aggressive and get in guys’ faces.”
Minster began playing spread teams in in Week 7 and have played Versailles, Parkway and Coldwater leading up to the game against the Fighting Irish.
“We’re learning what we like to do against spread teams here late in the season,” Moore said. “It’s worked out kind of nice here with us being able to play four very similar offensive style teams. Instead of switching gears, we’re able to go back to work the next week.”
“You get comfortable with what you’re doing and you can execute,” Ryan Will said.