Tradition • Character • Service

Tradition • Character • Service

Thursday, September 04, 2008 Tony Nicolette's Weekly Column

Always make Tony Nicolette's column at part of your week. This week he recaps the opener and is picking the Chargers to take care of business in Houghton. He even has HC vs. MTU as his game of the week.

Hillsdale 49, St. Joseph's 6

The Story: While both clubs entered the season having to replace QB's who were arguably the best in the history of each respective program, I'd bet that most folks were pretty comfy with the notion that whoever took over the reigns for the Chargers would certainly have a bit more weaponry at his disposal in this one. That proved to be the case, and Troy Weatherhead took advantage by engineering TD drives on six of his first seven possessions as the starter. It's a great start to the season, and folks in The Dale have to be excited about this team possibly having even more potential then they had originally thought.

Weatherhead wasn't the only new starter to shine, as A.J. Kegg proved he could more than pick up the slack left from Nick Gurica's graduation. Add in a stifling defensive effort (SJU had only TWO first downs the entire game - HC had 37), and you have a blow-out that could likely have been much worse if the first-teamers had played deeper than the first series of the second half.

The Leaders:
HC QB Troy Weatherhead - 19 of 22 for 237 yds, 2 TD's
HC RB Vinnie Panizzi - 16 carries for 99 yds, 2 TD's
HC WR A.J. Kegg - 9 rec for 129 yds, 2 TD's

T's Take: While Hillsdale was not the only GLIAC bunch to defeat an overmatched opponent this past weekend, they were far and away the most impressive in the way they did it. While there are certainly no guarantees as to what will happen the rest of the season, it's obvious that Weatherhead is more than capable of handling the controls of the HC offense. He was very efficient and accurate against the Pumas, and if he can stay away from mistakes as he gains experience the Chargers have to be considered a legit contender in this league. The tests get tougher as the season progresses, and I'm keenly interested to see the results.

Game of the Week

Hillsdale (0-0, 1-0) at Michigan Tech (0-0, 1-0)

Both teams are coming off of solid wins. Tech beat a quality opponent in a close game. Hillsdale, on the other hand, blew out at team an inferior team and were convincing in the process. This game could have a major impact on the direction of the remainder of the season for both squads. I think Hillsdale's defense will be a much tougher test for Steve Short and company, and how they respond is important. Conversely, Hillsdale has had a tendency to lay eggs in their trips to the U.P. Avoiding that type of result will prove that the program has really begun to separate itself - both from its past, and possibly from most of the rest of the league.

Tech Keys:
- Short - How goes their QB, so go the Huskies. Of course, it isn't entirely that simple, but if you look at their results in his 18 career starts they typically win when he's mistake-free.
- D front must take charge - Stuffing Panizzi and the run game will put added responsibility on Weatherhead. Pressuring him from there and exposing his lack of maturity could slow down the Charger attack.
- Special Teams - Tech still seems to be struggling with this even after the troubles they had last year. Giving away PAT's and what not will catch up with you sooner or later - it always does.

Hillsdale Keys:
- Confidence - I think everyone now sees that the new QB is plenty capable. He'll see a tougher defense this week, but believing that he can handle things (even when they aren't going to plan) is a must.
- Waldie/Kegg - Tech's secondary has holes. Look for these two to find them.
- Force the issue with Defense - When Steve Short makes mistakes, it isn't usually because he's in the mood to be charitable. Forcing him into situations he doesn't like is what tends to breed most of his mistakes. Whether it's extra pressure, double coverage on his WR's, whatever. Just make him do things he doesn't want to and you can take away his ability to control the game.

Prediction: At this point, I have to take Hillsdale simply for the fact that they have much more balance on both sides of the ball. If they are truly a top-flight team in this league, they won't let the U.P. jinx affect them. If they're not, they'll make my pick look lousy - won't be the first or the last time for that, I can assure you. Hillsdale 33, Tech 25.

Other tidbits that Tony hits:

Recaps and previews of the rest of the GLIAC
Ashland fires defensive coordinator Nick Toth
Ask Ligs segment
Q & A with Ferris State's Jake Visser

Tony's full column

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