Cadillac set to face Soo in D4 district final

CADILLAC — Some of those 9-0 teams you read about all season are gone.

Some of the 5-4 teams that made few waves are still playing.

In fact, they’re playing for a district title.

Cadillac is in that second group and pretty happy to be there.

The Vikings knocked off top-seeded Escanaba last week and are set to make a return trip to the Upper Peninsula to face Sault Ste. Marie in a Division 4 district title game at 2 p.m. today.

Cadillac (6-4 overall) had an up-and-down regular season but put it together last week in a 35-12 win over the Eskymos. The Blue Devils (7-3) advanced with a surprising 46-6 win over Ludington.

Consider this somewhat of a second chance for the Vikings.

“The records are wiped after Week 9,‘ Cadillac head coach Cody Mallory said. “5-4 or 9-0 doesn’t mean a thing. We’re just working to improve every day.‘

Coming off a Week 9 loss to Big North Conference champion Traverse City Central — one of those 8-1 teams you heard a lot about but saw its season end last week — Cadillac got into the playoffs as an additional qualified but also as a team that matched up well against the Eskymos.

The Vikings started fast, getting a touchdown on a trick play just 14 seconds into the game. A long run by Tipp Baker a couple of minutes later made it 14-0 before Escanaba fans even got their seat warmers heated up.

Cadillac dominated the first half for the most part and then made big plays in the second half to limit the Eskymos from gaining any momentum.

“I was very pleased with our open-field blocking and our discipline and physicality on defense,‘ Mallory said. “We’re just building off of and refining the things we did to get here.‘

The Vikings got to the perimeter a lot against Escanaba with its toss game and then just kept working at it in the second half after the Eskymos had adjusted defensively.

This week, Cadillac will see somewhat of a mirror image of itself. Sault Ste. Marie uses a big offensive line to get its running backs going north and south, Mallory said.

The two share a number of common opponents, as well.

The Blue Devils beat Alpena 20-14 in Week 2, beat Petoskey 8-7 in overtime in Week 4 and beat Gaylord 46-21 in Week 9. Cadillac beat Gaylord and Petoskey but lost to Alpena 41-38 in Week 4.

The Soo’s losses were to Marquette (31-0), Gladstone (20-8) and Ludington (31-14).

“They are a downhill running team with a very big offensive line,‘ Mallory said of the Soo. “They do a good job of staying patient and extending drives.‘

The Blue Devils totaled 393 yards on the ground last week against Ludington, paced by junior Kris Pearce. He carried the ball 30 times for 164 yards and two touchdowns.

With both teams loving to run the ball and chew up clock, it comes down to the fundamentals.

“We need to block, tackle and take care of the football,‘ Mallory said.

The winner of today’s game advances to a regional championship game Nov. 15-16 at either private-school powerhouse Grand Rapids Catholic Central (9-1) or Sparta (9-1).

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