QB duel highlights Canfield-West Branch

Two of the best quarterbacks in the area and the state will face off tonight in one of the signature matchups of the opening week of the high school football season.

Dru DeShields will lead a high-flying, high-scoring West Branch offense against Broc Lowry and a tough, physical Canfield team.

“Both those guys are really special players,” said West Branch head coach Tim Cooper. “Honestly, I think it might not only be one of the better matchups in the area, but one of the better matchups in the state at that position. That’s how confident we are in our guy, and that’s how much confidence they have in their guy as well. So I’m looking forward to it.”

Both teams graduated a lot of talent from last year’s playoff teams, and with some younger players filling those spots this year, both will likely lean on their veteran senior quarterbacks for guidance and leadership in order to be successful.

“I think it’s neat for the fans,” said Canfield head coach Mike Pavlansky. “But there’s 20 other players on the field that have to perform at a high level for Brock or Dru to play well. Don’t diminish those other guys on the field because those guys can determine the outcome of the game.”

West Branch is coming off a 13-1 season and an appearance in the Division IV regional final, while Canfield finished last season 11-2 and made it to the regional semifinal in Division III.

Both DeShields (Eastern Illinois) and Lowry (Indiana) already have college commitments under their belts, which allows them to direct their focus on their respective senior seasons and how those will play out, while both have high aspirations for their squads after stellar performances a year ago.

Both quarterbacks also have shown a propensity for beating their opponents in a myriad of ways. Both are dual-threat players who can beat teams with their arms and their legs, and both also play defense in the secondary. So when one is on offense and drops back to throw, the opposing quarterback will be lurking somewhere in pass defense, and vice versa.

“I’m confident in our gameplan,” Cooper said. “I think we have a good group of coaches that really put in the time over the course of the summer in the offseason to prepare us for this game. We just have to go out and execute. I think our guys are owning that leadership and responsibility and we’ll see how it ends up (tonight).”

The matchup also offers a contrast of styles — West Branch’s pass-heavy spread scheme vs. Canfield’s power run scheme.

“It’s two different styles, there’s no doubt about that,” Pavlansky said. “We’re concerned about us and figuring out a way to eliminate the big plays defensively and then finding a way to stay on the field offensively. Those are two big keys for us.”

The Warriors want to spread the ball around the field, play fast and score lots of points, while the Cardinals are much more methodical. They want to dominate possession, control the ball and manage the game that way.

“They keep everything in front of them,” Cooper said. “They want to make you drive and make mistakes eventually. They do a great job of getting the ball out and punching at the ball. Offensively, they’re a juggernaut. They’re going to run power and they’re a smash mouth football team. It’ll be a tall task for us, but our guys are looking up to it.”

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. in Beloit.


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