ST. IGNACE-The Hillman football team has made the playoffs eight years running and have put up some big numbers this season.
But as the Tigers (5-4) face off against St. Ignace tonight at 7 p.m. in a Division 8 predistrict game, they'll be facing a team with big numbers of its own.
St. Ignace (7-2) has reached the state semifinals each of the past two seasons and has had another stellar season in 2013.
How do the Tigers plan on getting past the Saints?
"We're going to try to stay balanced, keep our run equal to the pass. Hopefully, the weather is good and (Ty) Jones can step up on the in pocket and hit some good passes. We'll probably go 50/50 or 60/40 with pass and run and keep them guessing at what we're going to do," Hillman coach Bill Koenig said.
When Jones is on, he is a huge asset for the Tigers. He has thrown for 1,426 yards and 22 touchdowns this season and forms a strong 1-2 punch with receiver Mason VanPamel who has 32 catches for 570 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Hillman (5-4) at St. Ignace (7-2)
7 p.m., tonight St. Ignace HS
Notes: First meeting between the two schoolsThis is the 12th playoff appearance for Hillman and the 17th appearance for the SaintsSt. Ignace has two state finals appearances and won a title in 1985Hillman is 2-11 in the playoffs all-time, St. Ignace is 23-15The Saints have advanced to at least the second round of the playoffs every year since 2008This is Hillman's 8th consecutive playoff appearance
Jones also has secondary options in Travis Powers, Mike Klein and Dylan Ross. Powers has 415 reception yards and six touchdowns, while Klein has 245 yards and three touchdowns.
Hillman can also rely on the quickness of running back Kenny Kolcan who has 852 yards on 84 carries with 15 touchdowns.
"On offense, we need Kolcan to step up his game a little bit more and run a bit more physical. We're going to need VanPamel and the other three receivers to really work to run their routes right, get open and fight for the football. None of that happens unless the offensive line steps up and shut down the blitz," Koenig said.
Hillman is going to have to work hard against a Saint Ignace squad that balances the pass and run in a way similar to the Tigers.
Quarterback Tyler Snyder has 1,089 passing yards and 14 touchdowns. Gage Kreski has six touchdowns with 478 reception yards while Kyle Winkelman has 365 yards and six scores.
Running back James Cryderman has 322 yards on the ground and two scores while Brandon Oja has 337 yards and five touchdowns.
Hillman's defense will need to focus on shutting down players like these if it's to be successful.
"The (Saint Ignace) receivers, the tight ends specifically, do a good job of getting themselves open in middle of field behind linebackers. Their full back runs with good power and he always seems to be able to find his way to the hole," Koenig said.
Although Saint Ignace coach Marty Spencer has seen tapes of Hillman and takes the Tigers seriously, he's not going to alter his team's approach to the game.
"We're not going to change too much of what we do. My philosophy is you do a few things, but you do them well. We like to run and throw and that's not really going to change much. We have a quarterback who is very experienced. He was our quarterback in the semifinal team last year and he's 19-3 as a starter. We rely on him as a starter, but we also have some athletes that can carry the ball and that's what we plan on doing," Spencer said.
Eric Benac can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5690. Follow Eric on Twitter @EricBenac.