Unbeaten L-P not taking winless Ottawa lightly

Under coach Jose Medina, the La Salle-Peru football team has owned its rivalry series against Ottawa.

The Cavaliers are 5-0 against the Pirates in Medina’s tenure with an average margin of victory of 25.4 points per game.

Despite their recent success against Ottawa and the Pirates being 0-3 to L-P’s 2-0 this spring, Medina and the Cavs are not taking their rival lightly entering Friday’s 6 p.m. game at Howard Fellows Stadium in Peru.

“It’s a long-time rivalry and we’ve had the upper hand the last couple years, but by no means is it going to be an easy game,” Medina said. “They are just as hungry to get a victory as we are. I’m expecting their best game. It’s the L-P vs. Ottawa rivalry. That’s what we’ve been preaching to the kids. They’re going to give us their best. Of course, we’re always going to give them our best.”

Ottawa’s last win against L-P was a 50-20 victory on Oct. 10, 2014 in Ottawa.

“The old adage is throw out the records, but it’s true,” Ottawa coach Chad Gross said. “Most of these kids know each other whether it’s from other sports or growing up playing each other. It’s just different when you play a rival. It would be great for our program to go over there and knock them off.”

Gross called L-P “a disciplined and aggressive team.”

The Pirates will look to slow down the Cavs’ rushing attack that is averaging 245 yards per game and features junior back Matt Carrico, who has rushed for 222 yards and two touchdowns on 39 attempts.

Medina said quarterback Tyler Hartman will be a game time decision after leaving last week’s game with an ankle injury. If he can’t go, junior Sean Whitfield will play quarterback. He threw a touchdown pass in last week’s 14-7 win over Plano.

“We have to stay in our gaps,” Gross said. “Every kid has to do his job. With this attack, they have multiple ball carriers who can take it the distance in a hurry, so if one kid gets out of his gap, it’s a big play for L-P. They use a lot of motion and different formations. We really have to work defensively to stay in gaps and do what we ask them to do.”

Ottawa, meanwhile, will look to establish its own ground game against an L-P defense that’s allowing 54 rushing yards, 33.5 passing yards and 3.5 points per game.

“That’s definitely going to be a key to the game is trying to control the ball a little bit to try to keep their offense off the field,” Gross said. “Defensively, they’re aggressive. Up front they penetrate and make a lot of plays.

“It’s going to be very important to try to establish some sort of run game. We saw in their two games when they took away the run, then they did some things in the secondary where they took the ball away.”

Medina said Ottawa is improved from 2019 when the Pirates went 1-8.

“They’ve gotten better from last year and gotten better each game they’ve played so far,” Medina said. “They’ve played some good programs pretty tight the first half. Then it seems like it gets away from them a little in the second half.”

The Pirates, who have been within a touchdown at halftime in all three games, average 51 rushing yards and 112.3 passing yards per game.

Bryant Schomas has run for 116 yards, while Javarius Whitfield had a 56-yard TD run in last week’s 35-6 loss to Morris.

Ottawa quarterback Braiden Miller has completed 33-of-56 passes for 337 yards and one touchdown with three interceptions.

“They line up and want to try to outflank you a little but as far as running their power game,” Medina said. “They get guys to one side of the ball and just try to power their way through. They have some speedy backs and their offensive line looks pretty big and solid.

“Defensively, we preach to get turnovers. We want to stop their run game. I think that’s the biggest thing. They do like to pass too, but once you make a team one dimensional, it can be a little bit fun. You can pin your ears back and go get the quarterback.”