COAL CITY – In the most recent past, the Coal City football team has played teams that run a spread offense.
The Coalers will see just the opposite at 1 p.m. Saturday, as they host Richmond-Burton. The Rockets, like the Coalers, are 10-1. Richmond-Burton’s only loss was a 14-13 decision to Kishwaukee River Conference rival Marengo, coached by former Minooka coach Paul Forsythe.
Coal City’s only loss, meanwhile, was a 21-7 defeat to Morris in the season’s opening week. Since then, the Coalers have won 10 straight games and advanced to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2014.
Both teams hang their hats on their defensive units, and with good reason. Coal City has allowed only 70 points all season and has posted six shutouts in 11 games. Richmond-Burton has allowed only 74 points in its 11 games and has three shutouts. Two of those have come in the playoffs, as the Rockets have not allowed a point in the postseason, putting up a 42-0 win over Plano and 19-0 over Genoa-Kingston.
Earlier in the season, Richmond-Burton beat Johnsburg, 31-21. Coal City beat Johnsburg, 33-14, last week in the second round of the playoffs.
“They have a very good defense,” Coal City coach Dan Hutchings said about the Rockets, who are coached by Mike Noll. Noll is in his first season at Richmond-Burton. Overall, he is in his 29th season coaching, and has been in the playoffs 27 of those years (16 at McHenry, 10 at Glenbrook South and one at R-B).
“They play a 3-4 and they have a very good defensive line,” Hutchings said. “They have good, physical linebackers. We are going to have to be ready to match their physicality.”
Offensively, Richmond-Burton will run out of a wing-T formation, which will be a departure from what the Coalers have seen lately. The main running back is Mike Kaufman, who has carried 190 times for 1,349 yards (7.1 average) and 20 touchdowns. Dalton Wood (88 carries, 548 yards, 8 TDs) and Nick Legnaioli (42 carries, 347 yards, 3 TDs) also will be involved in the rushing attack. Quarterback Jacob Huber doesn’t throw often, but he has completed 32 of 63 passes for 505 yards and four touchdowns while being intercepted only once. His main receiver is Jake Bassett, who has 11 catches for 121 yards and two touchdowns.
“They are a physical team on offense, too,” Hutchings said. “It’s been awhile since we have played a team like that, but we have played Morris, Wilmington, Herscher and Streator that all were very physical on offense. Our regular-season schedule prepared us pretty well. We have seen just about any type of offense there is.”
The Coalers also like to keep the ball on the ground, as Daniel Jezik (156 carries, 779 yards, 7 TDs) and Connor Skubic (112 carries, 656 yards, 4 TDs) carry most of the load. Quarterback Payton Hutchings has completed 69 of 134 passes for 985 yards and 13 touchdowns against six interceptions. His main targets are Asa Cooper (25 catches, 318 yards, 2 TDs), Austin Pullara (18 catches, 312 yards, 4 TDs) and Gio Ferrara (17 catches, 246 yards, 2 TDs).
“We want to keep doing what got us here,” Dan Hutchings said. “We want to run the ball and do some things in the passing game. We are one of 64 teams still playing in the state. Two weeks ago, there were 256.
“We have a great group of kids, and they love coming out here and playing football. They want to keep playing as long as they can.”