The Patrick Henry football team staged a thrilling comeback to beat Elmwood 34-31 last Friday. Overcoming an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit to win a playoff game resulted in a victory PH coach Bill Inselmann said would leave most teams, "smiling all weekend."
But soon the euphoria generated by winning its Division V regional quarterfinal contest gave way to some introspection in the Patriot locker room. Suddenly the top-ranked team in the state looked vulnerable.
That feeling still lingers as Patrick Henry prepares to play Wayne Trace at Defiance's Fred Brown Field tomorrow, with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m.
Elmwood nearly beat the Patriots by using a game plan Inselmann said his team first saw when Delta held his team to a season-low 28 points. The Panthers lost by just 14 on Sept. 30 and actually led at the half. By comparison, in its other nine regular season wins PH never scored fewer than 42 points nor won by fewer than 29.
"The game plan Delta and coach [Mike] Vicars developed was keyed on taking ground in little chunks, then converting on third and fourth down," Inselmann said. "That helped them chew up the clock."
The Royals used a similar plan to perfection last week. Elmwood ran 74 plays to Patrick Henry's 44 and held the ball for 34 of the game's 48 minutes.
Still, the Patriots' offense was productive. In the 14 minutes it had the ball, PH scored 34 points and generated 309 yards of total offense.
Wayne Trace coach Bill Speller hopes to use a similar game plan tomorrow to throttle the Patriots' high-powered offense.
"It's important for us to control the clock, but we also have to be productive [on offense]," Speller said. "They have a great offense, so you don't want them on the field too much. But you can't just control the clock - you have to score touchdowns.
"And you have to make your conversions. If Elmwood makes its extra points, they win the game."
Inselmann said his team's struggles against Elmwood were caused by more than just the Royals' strategy.
"Credit Elmwood's coaching staff and players for a great game plan, but give them credit for playing hard and executing, too," Inselmann said. "I didn't like the way our kids responded - we just didn't have the intensity you need in the playoffs.
"But to our kids' credit, they did not quit. They fought back and found a way to win. That win was a testament to our kids - they found themselves in a tough situation, and they did not fold."
Inselmann said his team already has put its first-game struggles behind.
"We've had some excellent practices [this week], and there's no doubt our kids are focused," he said. "We have had a lot of confidence and enthusiasm on the practice field, and that's what I wanted to see."
The problem for the Patriots may be that the team on the other side of the ball tomorrow night gained some confidence from PH's struggles the week before.
"We have some confident kids who believe in themselves," Speller said. "They look forward to this game. Our kids knew if they wanted to go deep into the playoffs, they would have to play Patrick Henry at some time.
"Our kids are really pumped for this game."
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