In Division V, Region 16, Swanton makes the playoffs for the second time in school history and the first since 1995. The Bulldogs, the fourth seed, will host fifth-seeded Apple Creek Waynedale on Friday at 7:30 p.m.
“Waynedale is a lot like us. They have been down for a few years and this is a group that is led by some talented seniors,” said Swanton coach Mike Vicars. “As (a) team they have been up and down a little, and have had injuries like us. But they seem to be on a roll now.”
Vicars is impressed by the uptempo Golden Bear offense that is led by senior quarterback Brevin Riebe who has thrown for 2,135 yards on the season with 17 touchdowns but also has 10 interceptions.
“They have a good passing game with an excellent throwing QB that has over 2,000 yards passing,” said Vicars. “They throw to multiple guys but really like two guys in particular, Nick Strausbaugh, their best player, and Ant-Juan Lewis who was third at the state track meet last year in the 400.”
Strausbaugh is the Golden Bears leading receiver on the season with 39 receptions for 675 yards and 10 TDs. He will also take some snaps from the wildcat position.
The Bears feature a balanced attack as running back Reid Stanley averages 6.4 yards per carry and has 745 yards with eight TDs on the year.
Working in Swanton’s favor is their home crowd, which should be electric with it being the first home playoff game in school history.
“We hope that after a 20-year absence from the playoffs that the town is very excited to be back in the playoffs,” said Vicars. “Having a home game is really special for the community.”
The Bulldogs are also coming off back-to-back wins at home in which they defeated Liberty Center 31-21 and Delta 23-14. They look to keep that momentum going this week.
“It is always great to win, but this team is very different than the last two teams we played,” noted Vicars. “It is great to be at home.”
Swanton’s offense will look to control the clock as the Bears allow teams to run the ball, giving up 176.7 yards rushing per game. This should allow freshman running back Michael Lawniczak and the rest of the Bulldog ball carriers to have success.
Lawniczak had 916 yards rushing and 13 TDs during the regular season.
“Do what we do,” said Vicars on his team’s key to victory. “They have a great team. We have to stay away from giant plays from them. We need to try and control the ball as well. Eliminate penalties and turnovers too.”
Max Householder can be reached at 419-335-2010