BEAL CITY-The Mio football team hasn't had it easy in the playoffs the last two seasons.
Last season, Beal City got the better of the Thunderbolts 62-0 in a Division 8 predistrict game and the two teams will face off in a rematch tonight at 7 p.m.
Beal City (9-0) lost in last years state finals and entered the season as the top team in Class D. The Aggies have lived up to their billing, outscoring their opponents 530-68.
"They run a full house type of offense, so they just kind of pound it at you. They rely on run exclusively, and they're very good at it, to say the least. As good of a team as they had last year, this team is even better," Mio coach Jim Gendernalik said.
Mio (7-2) has a few tricks up its sleeve and will rely on the strong arm of senior quarterback Brad Rhoads who has more than 2,000 passing yards and 29 touchdowns on the year.
"Brad is only as good as his receivers and the linemen. When we aren't running routes or picking up the blocks he's not effective, and he knows that," Gendernalik said.
Mio (7-2) at Beal City (9-0)
7 p.m., tonight Beal City HS
Notes: Second meeting between the two schoolsBeal City won the last meeting 62-0 last season in a predistrict gameThis is Mio's 17th playoff appearance and the 31st appearance for Beal City Beal City is 52-28 in the playoffs all-time, Mio is 10-17The Aggies have advanced to at least the second round of the playoffs every year since 2006
Rhoads' main targets are seniors Seth Thomey and Colton McGregor. McGregor has 39 receptions for 709 yards and eight touchdowns, while Thomey has grabbed 29 balls for 617 yards and nine touchdowns.
A successful passing attack will be key for Mio as they take on a dominating Beal City defense. Last week the Thunderbolts were stifled in a 50-12 loss to Alcona and Mio's passing attack was held in check by a relentless Alcona front.
"The key for us to have any success is to follow our assignments, which we didn't do last week with Alcona. It was just terrible execution defensively, and the same thing will happen against Beal City if we don't stick to our routes," Gendernalik said.
Defensively, Mio will have a lot to watch out for. Senior running back Ty Rollin leads the Aggies' backfield and has 907 yards on 72 carries with 19 touchdowns. The Thunderbolts will also have to watch out for tight end Ryan Tilman, who has 21 catches for 501 yards and 12 touchdowns.
If Mio can shut down the Aggies' offensively and utilize its passing attack, the Thunderbolts could find themselves in the second round of the playoffs, a place they haven't been since 2010.
"It's easier said then done, but we just did a terrible job defensively last week. All the more reason you can't stand back and watch things happen against a good team, like Beal City," Gendernalik said.
Eric Benac can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5690. Follow Eric on Twitter @EricBenac.