RENO - Coming into the playoffs on a two-game losing streak isn't what Galena High football coach Steve Struzyk envisioned.
However, that's the scenario facing the defending zone champion Galena Grizzlies (7-2) as they prepare to host Hug (5-5) in a first-round Northern 4A playoff game tonight at 7 p.m. at Galena.
Galena won its first seven games, then dropped a 7-0 heartbreaker to Bishop Manogue and were blasted 36-10 by High Desert champion McQueen.
It's the same scenario as last year when Galena lost to Reed and Manogue to end the season, and then got hot and reached the state finals. Struzyk would like to catch the same sort of magic again this year.
"We're reeling right now," Struzyk said Wednesday afternoon. "We're not scoring points and we're turning the ball over. We're not going into the playoffs the way I'd like.
"They have to want to do it. If they don't want it, then it isn't going to happen."
Struzyk said he hasn't changed his approach this week, save for one thing.
"We're going back to basics since we've gotten out of rhythm offensively," he said. "We're going to do some of the things that got us to this point."
Struzyk even acknowledged that teams may have caught up with his team's offensive scheme a bit.
"Anytime your opponent watches four, five or six game films they can prepare for you a lot better," Struzyk said. "They can pick up tendencies and keys. It's the same for us (watching other teams), too.
"They are a lot different from when we played them earlier (32-13 Galena win). They are running a lot of power-I stuff which we didn't see the first time we played them."
Another thing different about Hug is that the Hawks are healthy. Hug coach Rollins Stallworth said he had five or six starters that didn't play in the first game against Grizzlies
Meanwhile, the Grizzlies have some injured starters - fullback/linebacker/tight end Kyle Griffin, two-way starter Levi Stafford and lineman Mick Johnson. Struzyk said all three players will be game-time decisions.
Under most circumstances, Galena would have a little mental edge over the Hawks based on its earlier win, but the past two weeks may have wiped that out.
Hug presents a huge challenge to the Galena defense, which is led by Jake Hess, P.J. Tomaino, Pete Lazzari and Jake Mansfield.
The Hawks have a 1,000-yard rusher in David Knowles (145-1,028-7 TDs) and he's complemented by Tonio Burton (60-601-5 TDs). Quarterback Michael Williams, who will also play some wide receiver, carried 55 times for 367 yards and five scores.
Hug is a running team; an explosive team. It has the ability and athleticism to score from anywhere on the field at any given time. The key is to force the Hawks tro do what they don't like to do - pass the ball.
"First and second-down defense is going to be huge," Struzyk said. "That sophomore (Knowles) has 1,000 yards already.
"It's assignment football. You blow one assignment...the key is keeping everything in front of you. We have to tackle; wrap them up."
Hug's quarterbacks - Williams and Giovanni Bisio - combined for only 659 yards and seven scores. Williams completed only 33 percent of his passes for 369 yards, while Bisio was 22 of 43 for 290 yards.
"We have to do a better job of keeping them off balance," Stallworth said. "We have to improve our passing game. If we don't, they are going to bring eight guys in the box.
"We will rotate the quarterbacks. The spread has helped us open our offense."
Struzyk said that when Hug does that, Williams and Courtney Gardner will be flanked out wide and Bisio comes in as quarterback.
Don't be surprised to see Hug throw on first and second down at times just to keep the Galena defense off balance.
Meanwhile, Stallworth said his defensive unit will have its hands full against the explosive Grizzlies.
"For us to beat them, we have to stop their passing game," Stallworth said. "Jacob (Anderson) is phenomenal. He's one of the best. He picked us apart."
Anderson threw for 243 yards and four scores. His two favorite targets are Jason Parkinson, who has unofficially 41 catches for 579 yards, and Steve Blackhart, who has 25 and 485, respectively.
The Grizzlies also count on Lazzari as a run and pass-catching threat. He's accounted for nearly 700 yards of offense this season.
Note: Stallworth will be able to coach tonight's game, but Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association executive director Eddie Bonine has suspended Stallworth for the opening game of the 2008 season. The suspension is for critical comments Stallworth made about officiating last year in a game not involving Hug. Stallworth can appeal the suspension.
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