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Hermosillo big test for Dixon’s defense

Another challenge for Dukes

Caption
(Philip Marruffo/pmarruffo@saukva)
Dixon's John Thomas tries to make a tackled during last Friday's game against LaSalle-Peru. The Dukes play undefeated Ottawa on Friday at King Field.

After games against Rochelle, Morris and Geneseo, the Dixon Dukes have to feel like they've seen just about anything a good rushing offense can throw at them.

Friday night at King Field, the Ottawa Pirates will show them something new.

Behind running back Michael Hermosillo, a Unversity of Illinois recruit, and a big and physical offensive line, the Pirates have dominated teams on their way to a 6-0 record, including 2-0 in NIB-12 West play. They have outscored opponents 224-46, and have scored at least 35 points in five games.

"Ottawa is probably the most balanced team I've seen," Dixon coach Dave Smith said. "Their run game is good, their special teams are good, and their defense is a big reason why they're undefeated. They have size, they're physical and strong, and they put a lot of pressure on you to not make mistakes. I don't see any weaknesses."

As good as the Pirates defense has been – they have allowed more than six points just twice, and haven't given up more than 17 points in a single game – it's Hermosillo that makes the Ottawa engine go. The senior, who was the NIB-12 West player of the year in 2011, is living up to the hype in 2012.

He has 1,189 yards and 18 touchdowns on just 103 carries, good for an 11.5-yard per carry average. The totals include a school-record 351-yard, 5 TD performance in a 49-0 shutout of Yorkville  in the opener – and that came on only nine carries.

"He's got a little of both speed and power," Dixon junior defensive back Dane Schielein said. "He's fast and strong, has a great stiff-arm he'll throw at you, and is just an all-around great running back. This week, it's all about playing team defense. We have to make things happen, not just wait for him to come to us."

"He has great running ability, and uses stiff-arms and spin moves and change of direction and speed," sophomore linebacker Cody Mighell added. "Our job is to go low, wrap up, don't let him drag you, basically just slow him down so we can gang-tackle."

But Smith warns that the Dukes (0-6, 0-2) have more to worry about than just Hermosillo. Fellow wingback J.D. Bryant (31 rushes, 259 yards, 3 TDs), fullback Alex Hartman and quarterback Will Hoffman (12-for-27 passing, 217 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs) are also capable of breaking big plays, and the Pirates have no problem riding any of them to victory if necessary.

"You can't just focus on one spot," Smith said, "because they have a lot more backs to carry the ball. They run inside and outside, jet sweeps to the edge and fullback traps between the tackles. We have to be able to make plays all over the field."

Dixon's best defense may be an effective offense. The Dukes have run for 374 yards and three TDs this season, but it's a consistent passing game that may be key. Quarterback JD Gieson has thrown for 964 yards and 10 TDs on 82-for-159 passing, and has connected with seven different receivers.

The more complete passes and first downs Dixon can rack up, the longer the Ottawa offense is stuck in neutral.

But there's also the natural motivator for the Dukes defense of going up against a Division I talent in Hermosillo. Not only do they want to erase the 50-point performances by their past three opponents, but they want to prove what they've learned and how much they've improved against powerhouse ground attacks.

"It's about a legacy," Mighell said. "If we can play well and not let a kid who's going to Illinois have a big game, that shows the younger Dukes that they can do the same thing against anybody. We have to shake off the past few games, go out and have fun and do what we have to do on defense to get the job done."

Dixon (0-6, 0-2 NIB-12) at Ottawa (6-0, 2-0)

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

Where: King Field

Radio: 1460 AM

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