Two at the top of MAL to square off

To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of Fremont St. Joe’s demise – or at least its decline – have been greatly exaggerated.

After winning the Midland Athletic League a season ago, the Streaks were hit by graduation and the loss of coach Scott Knisely, who is now an assistant at Hiram College.

Some assumed this combination would lead to a down year for St. Joe.

And yet, here we are, seven weeks into the season, and the Streaks – under new coach T.J. Buckley – are just fine, thank you.

St. Joe sits 5-2 overall, and is tied for the MAL lead at 3-1 in conference play. Perhaps most importantly, the Streaks sit atop the computer rankings in Region 24 (Calvert is seventh in the region).

All of which makes Saturday’s game between Calvert and St. Joe in Fremont important. The Senecas – one of the teams St. Joe is tied with for first in the MAL – travel to Fremont for the final time as a conference rival.

Calvert coach Todd Fox said that while some may have expected the Streaks to take a step back, he wasn’t one of them.

“A lot of people didn’t expect it, but we knew what they had coming back,” Fox said. “I think up front, on both sides of the ball, they have very good offensive and defensive lines. Obviously I’m a little biased, but the way the lineman goes, everyone goes.”

In the Streaks’ case, that has led to a strong running game. St. Joe ranks second in the MAL in overall rushing, led by Marcus Kerr, who has run for 957 yards, and average of more than 5 a carry.

“Kerr’s a had a great season, and he’s very elusive,” Fox said. “He’s slick and it’s tough to get a hold of him, so we’re gonna have to swarm tackle him.”

Defensively, Fox compares St. Joe to his own squad. It has had good games and tough games. What is noticeable is how well the Streaks play against the run – they are first in the MAL, allowing about 99 yards on the ground a contest.

“I think they have a very good defense, and we match up together strength vs. strength, so we’ll see what happens,” Fox said.

Calvert comes into Saturday’s game on a roll offensively, having scored a combined 93 points over the past two weeks.

“We feel that we’re coming along to where we need to be,” Fox said. “We want more out of ourselves, and [quarterback Tyler Long], I think a lot of teams are preparing for Tyler, and that’s opened up the run game for our backs [Austin Ball, Adam Recker]. Last week our tailbacks combined for over 300 yards, so we still like to keep [Long] involved in the game and keep our backs involved in the game. I think it’s coming along; we still have some areas we want to keep improving on.”

As mentioned earlier, Calvert makes its final trip to Fremont before the MAL disbands at the end of this school year. Fox said he will miss going there.

“It’s a beautiful stadium, great place,” he said. “But it’s no question the rivalry between the two schools [started] a long time ago, and it’s sad this will be the last time we play them in a regular-season conference [game] for a while, so it will be an exciting atmosphere.”

Kickoff is at 7 p.m. Saturday.