HARTLAND — A Hartland football team that was picked to finish fifth in the preseason can clinch the KLAA West Division title tonight, an accomplishment coach Brian Savage says has been in the works for almost a year.
“These guys have worked hard ever since we walked off the field from that Howell night last year,” he said, referring to a loss to Howell in the first round of the 2020 playoffs. “They’ve done a good job and put themselves in a good spot. We’re happy to be here.”
The Eagles (6-1 overall, 5-1 KLAA West) can clinch their first title since 2014 and first outright title since 2012 with a win tonight over Canton (5-2, 5-1).
If Canton wins, then Howell would be division champions.
The winner will play at the KLAA East Division champion next week.
The game will be broadcast on The Livingston Post beginning at 6:50 p.m. Click here for the link.
“They’re a really good team,” said junior Sam Clay, who is expected to see action at quarterback tonight if Brad Sollom can’t play. “It’s tough defensively for us, because they have that interesting offense.”
If the Hartland’s defense matches Clay’s talent for diplomacy, the Eagles certainly have a shot. Canton’s offense. for years, has been nothing fancy. Two tight ends, a T-formation, and run the ball as much as you can.
“The just try to smack you in the face,” Savage said. “This year, they’ve added a couple of wrinkles, a little spread offense in there. So now you have to get ready for some odd offense, but you’ve got to defend the passing part, too. They’re tough, they’re good, and that’s why they’re playing for the No. 1 spot also.”
The Eagles have stepped up their rushing attack the last couple of weeks, with junior running back Joey Mattord averaging 270 yards rushing the last two weeks.
Savage also is getting Mitch Cavanaugh back. The junior wideout has been out since he was injured in the preseason.
But if both teams keep the ball on the ground, both will have to make the most of their possessions.
“You only get so many possessions, the way they eat the clock,” Savage said.
With rain in the forecast, Hartland’s grass field may be a little harder to run on, but Savage doesn’t think that will be a factor.
“They practice on grass, so I don’t think that will be a big deal,” he said.
Playing at home is another thing.
“I love playing home games,” Mattord said. “The student section is always great, and we’re playing for a trophy. It’s going to be great. We’re working our butts off.”
That hard work, Clay said, is why a team that KLAA West coaches picked to finish fifth has a chance to finish first tonight.
“We saw the rankings and we knew we could prove everyone wrong,” he said. “We knew we had it in us, and we just wanted to show it to everybody. We came to practice pretty lively and have been working really hard all season and we’ve been putting it together.”