Sesser-Valier-Waltonville-Woodlawn made the playoffs for the second straight year after not earning a postseason berth since 2012 and will open the 3A playoffs by hosting Greenville Saturday at 1 p.m.
“Greenville is a power football team and they have the best running back we’ve seen all year in Christian Moss,” said S-V-W-W coach John Shadowens. “They are very big up front and will be the biggest offensive linemen we’ve seen all year and their quarterback is very good. I would compare him with Nick Meyer from Chester. Saturday will be a daunting task.”
S-V-W-W (8-1) opens the playoffs after losing a tough defensive struggle with Fairfield, 18-6, for the Black Diamond title last week.
“We faced the best defense we’ve seen all year,” Shadowens said. “The positive thing is we came out healthy. We played a physical brand of football last to get playoff ready. It was a shame to lose the conference title, but the kids are full of confidence heading into the playoffs after beating some good programs this season and knowing what to expect after making it last year.”
The Red Devils finished undefeated at home this season going 4-0 and come in averaging 35.7 points a game while giving up just 12.4. Offensively, the Red Devils are averaging 350 yards a game (247 rushing and 103 passing) while giving up 195 (143 rushing and 52 passing).
“We strive for balance because we have to be able to attack what the defense gives us,” Shadowens said. “I’ve seen a lot of zero coverage from Greenville and to attack that we have to throw the ball, but they also play cover three, so we have to run the ball. If you’re one dimensional they will stymie you. We’ve been blessed with some weapons and we’ve been able to spread it out and use them. We’re fairly healthy, so I think we’ve got all the weapons ready for Saturday.”
Last week the Red Devils were held to 147 total yards, with their leading rusher Eli Gunter, who came in averaging 102 yards rushing a game, held to just 17 yards on seven carries.
Gunter is the fourth leading rusher in the Black Diamond with 831 yards on 97 carries with nine touchdowns. The junior also has nine catches for 108 yards.
Senior Peyton Rock is the fifth leading rusher with 700 yards on 78 carries with nine touchdowns. Last week Rock had 58 yards rushing on nine carries.
“Eli and Peyton are very similar,” Shadowens said. “They are not big breakaway threats, although they’ve had some long runs, but they’re strong runners. They run between the tackles very well and break tackles very well. The closest thing we have to a burner is our quarterback.”
Senior quarterback Clayton Smith is the conference’s second leading passer behind Meyer with 851 yards passing and 10 touchdown passes. Last week Smith completed 5-of-13 passes for 58 yards.
Senior Lucas Gunter is the conference leading receiver with 32 catches for 602 yards (18.8 average) and seven touchdowns. Senior Kadin Kiselewski is averaging 25.4 yards a catch on nine receptions for 229 yards with four touchdowns.
“The question this year was our defense, but I was very pleased with how they went through that meat grinder at Fairfield,” Shadowens said. “We’re not very big, but we are quick and they’ve got better as the season progressed. I think our defense has been overshadowed by our offense, but that’s fine with us.”
Greenville (7-2) is a veteran playoff team having earned a postseason berth 15 of the past 16 years the last nine of 10 times under head coach Todd Hutchinson. The Comets have moved down a class this season after earning a spot in the 4A playoffs in 2016 and 2014.
“We’re not afraid to play on the road and Sesser is a worthy opponent,” said Greenville coach Todd Hutchinson. “They are a team that’s played well all year and on film they look pretty good, so we’re expecting a dog fight.”
The Comets have won seven of their last eight games and are 4-0 on the road this season. Greenville is coming off a 35-28 come-from-behind win over Carlinville handing the Cavaliers their first loss of the season after trailing 28-14 in the third quarter.
Three-year starting running back Christian Moss leads the team in rushing with 2,200 yards. Last week the senior ran for 272 yards and scored three touchdowns, including scoring runs of 65 and 31 yards.
“Christian is a three-sport athlete and is kind of a throwback kid that just works and plays hard,” Hutchinson said. “He’ll get extra yards if he needs to and can get outside and take it the distance as well.”
Defensively the Comets work out of a 4-4 base scheme led by inside linebackers senior Blake Doll and junior Tanner Tomaschke.
“This is one of the best defenses we’ve had in the last five or six years,” Hutchinson said. “We’re as big as we’ve been the last 10 years. We have kids who fly to the ball and I like our pursuit.”