Linsly set for another test at Dover
DOVER — As one of just three undefeated teams left in the OVAC this season, the Dover Crimson Tornados look to be one of the best teams in the area and seem poised for a deep playoff run.
But if Dover’s 7-0 record is supposed to be intimidating, nobody has told the Linsly Cadets.
“We’re excited for the opportunity,” Linsly coach BJ Depew said. “I think they’re going to stand out as one of the best teams in the area this year and a lot of schools will think about how they would stack up to a team of that caliber. We’re excited we can actually get on the field with them and see for ourselves how we stack up.”
The Cadets (5-2) are no strangers to playing tough teams this season, especially when those teams come from across the river in Ohio. Linsly has already matched up with Youngstown Cardinal Mooney, St. Clairsville and Steubenville this season. They also picked up a 41-20 win over Canton Central Catholic last Friday.
“Every one of those games makes us a better team and a better program moving forward,” Depew said. “That’s the level of football that we want to play. I think each of those games has made us a stronger program whether we have won or lost.”
It is not like Dover has played a bunch of slouches either. The Tornadoes boast wins over Canfield, Steubenville and Strongsville this season.
Strongsville came the closest to beating Dover this year, losing 14-13, and Linsly looks a lot like they do, according to coach Dan Ifft.
“They have tremendous size, that just jumps out at you,” Ifft said. “Their kids play really hard and they’ve got some talented skill kids. The quarterback can do just about anything he wants to do and the receivers can go and get it. A couple of them are tall and the ones that aren’t tall are pretty fast.”
Ifft said his team has done a great job of not letting their undefeated record go to their heads and are seriously preparing for the Cadets this week.
“(The players) can see the film and they know that Linsly stacks up real well,” Ifft said. “We liken them to Strongsville and our kids know how difficult that game was for us so we haven’t had to say a whole lot. They get it, they watch the film and know how good Linsly is.”
Dover has been led by its defense this season. They have not allowed a team to score more than two touchdowns in any game this season and are giving up an average of just 8.9 points per game.
“We don’t do a lot (on defense),” Ifft said. “We’re a read scheme and our kids know it pretty well and try not to be out of position. We try to make people earn everything on every play. That’s been key for us and the same thing has to be true Friday night for us if we want to be successful.”
Ifft said his defense is especially strong up the middle, anchored by defensive tackles Ryan McVicker and Simon Lorentz, linebackers Connor McGarry and Tyler Little and safeties Ben Hamm and T.C. Molk.
“We’ve gotten real good play out of our internal guys,” Ifft said. “We try to be strong up the middle and all of those kids are up the middle of our defense.”
“We’re going to have to find a way to consistently move the football and stay balanced,” Depew added. “They defended Steubenville’s run as well as anybody I’ve ever seen so we know it’ll be tough to crease that defensive front. We’re going to have to get them leaning one way and go the other to move the ball against them and to score some points.”
In terms of mixing it up on offense, Linsly might have the perfect weapon to do so in quarterback Luca DiLorenzo. The junior has thrown for 787 yards and six touchdowns this season and ran for 550 yards and eight more scores.
“We don’t have anybody with that speed so it’s been very difficult to get that look in practice,” Ifft said. “We don’t see anybody that fast usually. He’s not an overly big young man but he can throw and he can run and if he gets out on the perimeter, you’re going to have a problem.”
On the other side, Dover has transitioned from a five-wide offense in years past to a run-first approach this season.
“We can still do some of that, but that’s not what our focus has been,” Ifft said. “We’re trying to run the ball a little bit more to help that defense. We came in with a different philosophy this year to run the football and play good, sound defense.”
Depew said Dover’s level of execution makes their offense even more impressive.
“The most impressive thing that I have seen from watching them is that I don’t see mistakes,” he said. “I see a very well-coached team, a very disciplined team, a team that plays together. They look like a machine on both sides of the ball.”
Despite getting the win last week, the Cadets certainly did not play their best game. They turned the ball over twice, were called for 15 penalties and only picked up nine first downs against Canton Central Catholic. Depew said there is no way they will beat Dover playing like that.
“We won’t be able to have a couple negative plays and then a penalty and then make one big (play) that scores us points,” Depew said. “That kind of success can happen if you’re the better team, but it’s not going to work against a team the quality of Dover.”
Depew’s message in practice this week has been that just because Dover is still undefeated, they are not unbeatable.
“You have to send that message, anything can happen on any given night,” Depew said. “The ball bounces funny sometimes. When you get some momentum on your side, you can make some things happen. For anybody to beat Dover at this point, I think they will have to play a near-perfect game and get some breaks. Our kids don’t think anything is impossible. We’ve been up against some pretty tough odds and we’ve found a way to be successful before.”