MANISTEE — With a chance for a share of the final Lakes 8 Activities Conference title gone, Manistee’s football team isn’t showing any signs of throwing in the towel on the season.
The Chippewas (4-3) are still in good position to qualify for the Michigan High School Athletic Association playoffs if they can win the next two games, starting with Friday night’s 7 p.m. contest in Hesperia.
Hesperia is winless at 0-6, but Chippewas coach Troy Bytwork says his charges are well aware that they are no position to take anyone lightly at this point.
“We’re in a good spot, but all of that is contingent on us taking care of business Friday,” Bytwork said. “I think our opponents have over a 60 percent win percentage.
“So, we’ve played some quality teams. Obviously, a team like Hesperia doesn’t have a record like a Muskegon Catholic or Lutheran Westland.
“But, we haven’t got the right to take an opponent lightly, and think we’re going to get a win just because. That’s not how this game is played. You’ve got to take every opponent the same way, and you’ve got to beat them. That’s our job Friday, is to beat them, and we’ve got to do it on the field.”
The Panthers will play on odd front on defense, Bytwork said, with five players on the line and will try to bring pressure on every play.
Playing press man, the Panthers are trying to get to the quarterback in passing situations before he can get the ball off down field.
Offensively, the Panthers go with one tight end and a wide receiver while running out of a power ‘I’ with three backs in the backfield and run off tackle.
Despite last week’s shutout loss, Bytwork said the team’s spirit has been good in practice. Even at halftime against the Crusaders when they trailed by four scores, the coach said there wasn’t any devastation in their eyes.
Just simple disappointment.
“They weren’t happy with how they had played,” Bytwork said. “We put that game really high up on a pedastal for obvious reasons.
“We went out in the second half of that game and played our tails off, and played physical with those guys for 24 minutes. I challenged them after the game that we had to clean things up, and they’ve accepted that. They want to get back on the field.”
Bytwork added that the Chippewas are a pretty fired up group that wants to extend their season.