Chambersburg Cardinals host Henry County (Ga.) in GDFL Xtreme Conference championship
Public Opinion Online
By MIKE MILLER
Chambersburg Cardinals assistant head coach Chazz Brown wants to make one thing clear: The Cardinals are not overlooking the Henry County (Ga.) Horsemen -- tonight's opponent and the only team standing between them and a trip to the Gridiron Developmental Football League championship.
"We know Henry County is a first-class organization," Brown said. "They'll be our toughest opponent to date. We know they're coming in with quality athletes. They can match us with speed, they can match us with size and with overall ability."
The game will determine the GDFL's Xtreme Conference champion, with the winner moving on to face the Oklahoma Thunder, the winners of the Impact Conference.
Henry County will be playing for the right to play the championship in its own backyard. The site of the GDFL final -- Westlake High School in Atlanta -- is roughly 40 miles from Henry County's home turf.
The Cardinals are back at Trojan Stadium after a scheduling conflict pushed them to Kaley Field in Greencastle last week. The friendly surroundings should continue to benefit the team.
Of the 29 games played so far during the GDFL playoffs, the home team has won 26. For their part, the Cardinals haven't lost a home game since July 31, 2010. Win or lose, today will be the final Cardinals game at Trojan Stadium this season.
"We can't wait to get back in front of the Chambersburg fans," Brown said. "The thing I want to emphasize is
how much the whole staff appreciates the fan support in Chambersburg. It's wonderful. We'd like to see 4-5,000 fans out there."
Horsemen coach Tyrone Barnes understands his squad will be entering a hostile environment at Trojan Stadium. Although long road trips at this level of the game are often hard for teams to rebound from once players hit the field, Barnes expects a big effort from his players when they line up against the Cardinals.
"We think we'll put up a decent fight," he said. "Of course, whenever you're at this level of football and with a trip this far, you don't always have everybody you need. We'll have to make what we have work against those juggernauts up there.
"We'll probably be a little short-handed, but we'll show up and we're definitely going to let people see that we play a pretty good style of football down in the south. We plan to give them all they can handle."
The Horsemen have not enjoyed the same degree of dominance exhibited by the Cardinals this postseason. While Chambersburg has outscored the opposition 121-20, Henry County owns a 66-34 point differential, which was boosted with last week's 21-0 victory over the Carolina Warriors.
As is the case with many of their non-division opponents, the Cardinals don't have the most wall-to-wall intel on the Horsemen.
But Brown said the Cardinals' staff received a few big scouting tips this week.
"We know they run a spread offense and like to spread it out and use a few three-step slant patterns," Brown said. "They have some good running backs, but our defense is prepared for any type of offense that we'll see.
"Dain Garland, our defensive coordinator, has a good idea of what (Henry County) do. Our defensive line coach, Joe Brumfield, will have a good rotation and make sure people are fresh. Our defensive backs are prepared for an aerial game. Everyone's prepared to win. If you don't win tonight, you don't progress."
Chambersburg's defense, the stingiest unit of the playoffs, is a known commodity. The Cardinals are expecting another big night from it. On the other hand, Chambersburg's offense has struggled with inconsistency for much of the postseason.
Quarterback Anthony Gardner has thrown for 264 yards between the last two games and has completed only 25 of 49 passes. The team bounced back from the second-round game against Hampton Roads in which it amassed only 152 yards of total offense. Against Asheville last week, Chambersburg totaled 236 yards of offense despite a sleepy first half.
"Our offense over the last couple weeks has made steady improvement," Brown said. "We know we've been getting off to slow starts. But they'll come out and show what type of game plan (offensive coordinator Jake Minnich) and (head coach Chad Fauson) have come up with. Gardner will be on top of his game and we want to score as many points as we can.
"We always go into the game knowing we have to score as much as we can. Tonight it's do or die, quote the raven, nevermore."
Mike Miller can be reached at 262-4788, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Cardinals-Horsemen at a glance
Game data: Henry County (Ga.) Horsemen at Chambersburg Cardinals ... Tonight, 7, at Trojan Stadium ... GDFL Xtreme Conference championship.
Teams: Henry County is 13-0 after defeating the Carolina Warriors 21-0 ... The Cardinals (12-0) beat the Asheville Grizzlies 34-0 last week.
Series: First meeting.
Tickets: $10 adults, $7 ages 11-18, $5 ages 7-10 and 65-plus, under-6 admitted free.
P.O. pick: Cardinals by 6.
Cardinals' defense is among league's best
Public Opinion Online
Ground control: Chambersburg Cardinals linebacker Christopher... (Kerri Fleegle/For Public Opinion)
By MIKE MILLER
If a person was to go searching the country for the best defense in minor league football, a trip to Chambersburg would have to be in the plans.
On any given Saturday evening, that person would have to drive along Lincoln Way East, turn onto Sixth Street and walk into Trojan Stadium, where they'd find the Chambersburg Cardinals defensive unit -- a pack of large, skilled men who have proven themselves to be at the crest of the Gridiron Developmental Football League this season.
The Cardinals are now one win away from reaching the GDFL Championship. If Chambersburg posts its third consecutive shutout on Saturday against the Henry County (Ga.) Horsemen, the team's path to Atlanta will become much clearer.
The Cardinals have outscored opponents 121-20 through three playoff games, including Saturday's 34-0 dismantling of the Asheville (N.C.) Grizzlies. Of Asheville's 34 rushing plays on Saturday, the Grizzlies were held to negative or zero yards on 13 plays.
"It's insane," Cardinals coach Chad Fauson said of his defense. "Even last year's defense -- which was pretty darn good -- if you went past our first 11 players, you had to start scratching your head. We've got 22 guys who would be the stars on any other team's defense. They work well together and communicate well. They've really bonded."
It's difficult for Fauson to pick a defensive most valuable player. The whole unit has been stellar all season. Perhaps most
encouraging is its consistency.
But if Fauson were to pick an MVP from Saturday's victory, it would be outside linebacker Jaron Nalewak, a Chambersburg native.
"The entire game, each time he was on the field, Jaron made a play," Fauson said. "He definitely showed up to play on Saturday."
Nalewak's 55-yard fumble recovery returned for a touchdown before halftime sparked Chambersburg after its offense played the first half in a lull.
The Cardinals managed the game thanks to a defense that forced the Grizzlies into 3-and-out's on four of the visitors' nine possesions. Nalewak and defensive tackle Sabree Anderson both sacked quarterback Michael Byrd. James Rockymore interecepted Byrd on the fifth play of the game.
The stout defensive play has made up for the Cardinals' sleepy offense of late.
In the second round against Hampton Roads, Chambersburg managed only four total rushing yards on 21 carries. Although the Cardinals managed to win 39-0, 14 of those points came between defense and special teams.
The Cardinals didn't record an offensive touchdown against Asheville until Jerell Jones caught a 14-yard pass from Anthony Gardner at 9:49 in the third quarter. Chambersburg finished the game with 236 yards of total offense, thanks to a rejuvenated second-half rushing attack.
Keon Lattimore, who was held to 20 yards on four carries in the first half, ran for 61 yards in the third quarter, including a dazzling 55-yard carry through the middle of the field.
It goes back to Fauson's concern early this season about the offense's lack of repetitions.
"It just seems like we never have the right combination on offense," Fauson said. "Bottom line is we haven't been able to run as many plays as we'd like to. It's kind of like a double-edged sword. It's a good thing, but when you go up against good teams it can bite you on the butt, too."
LEWIS LIKELY OUT: Wide receiver Ottis Lewis will likely be held out of Saturday's game with an injured right knee.
Lewis fell to the ground on Chambersburg's first offensive series with an injury that is either a sprain or a hyperextension. The Cardinals are hoping that a week of rest will help Lewis return to the field on Oct. 1 if the team can advance to the GDFL final.
Lewis recorded a 26-yard reception on the second play of the drive.
Follow the GDFL for Live Updates & Scores on Twitter @THEGDFL also you can Click Link to Listen to Live Broadcast of the GDFL Xtreme Championship Game http://www.audiosportsonline.net/ChambersburgCardinals/ChambersburgCardinals_Live.htm Gametime is @ 7pm