Playoff hopefuls square off in Bellevue-Columbian clash

PHOTO BY STEVE WILLIAMS Columbian receiver Nick Koerper runs after a reception that resulted in a touchdown last week against Clyde at Tiffin.

Columbian was tested last week against Clyde, and will be tested again tonight.

The Tornadoes (6-1, 1-1 Sandusky Bay Conference Lake Division) will host Bellevue at 7 p.m.

With Calvert having a bye week, it’s literally the only game in town.

And it’s a big one.

Not only is it a rivalry game, but it also has postseason implications for both. Columbian sets seventh in Division III’s Region 10, while the Redmen are sixth in Division IV’s Region 14.

“We know all the implications that take place in a game like this,” Columbian coach Judd Lutz said. “We’re very honest about it. Playoff potential, and fighting for a chance to still win a share of a conference championship, but at the same point, it still has to be a one day at a time sort of mentality.”

Bellevue (5-2, 1-1 SBC Lake) has an offense that averages 32.9 points a game. It is led by dual-threat quarterback Keegan Ray, who has thrown for 895 yards and run for 589. He has 17 total touchdowns.

“Their quarterback’s obviously a great leader, putting the ball in the right people’s hands, but obviously making plays with his own feet most of the time,” Lutz said.

The Redmen also have a top-notch receiver in first-year player Caleb Marshall. Listed at 6-foot-6, the receiver has has 25 receptions for a league-high 560 yards and nine touchdowns.

“They have a huge weapon outside, as well, with the big-play potential, Lutz said, “but they also have the ability to grind it out. A pretty good offensive line, we feel like. They can hand the ball off to a number of people and get successful yards. So, similar to last week in that, if we don’t take care of the run, we could be in for a long, long night.”

Columbian, meanwhile, averages nearly 39 points a game. Quarterback Chase Frankhauser, despite being out with an injury early in the season, is second in the league with 1,062 yards. And receiver Nick Koerper — who filled in at quarterback when Frankhauser was out — has 422 yards receiving and seven touchdowns.

The Tornadoes offense was executing at a high level last week, with receiver LJ Reaves catching three touchdown passes, including the game-winner with 51 seconds left in a 49-42 win over Clyde.

“We feel like we’ve got a very solid offensive line that we can run behind, we can throw behind, and also weapons at a number of levels,” Lutz said.

That offense will be pushed by Bellevue’s defense, which limited Perkins to 10 points last week, and is giving up just 15.3 points a game.

Bellevue linebacker Jack Howey is fourth in the league with 54 tackles.

“Extremely well coached. They’re very sound in what they do,” Lutz said of the Bellevue defense. “They’re not gonna give up explosive plays, schematically, you’re gonna have to earn them. They tackle well. I’m really impressed with their defensive line, and their ability to play their assignment, get off blocks, and pursue the football. I think this is one of the best top-to-bottom defensive lines that we’ve played, as far as the ability to make plays and get off blocks. We’ve got to get on them and stay on them. That’s a huge, huge emphasis this week, for sure.”