The thrill of making the high school football playoffs never gets old at Mechanicsburg High School, even after advancing six years in a row.
It’s even better when you’re at home, Mechanicsburg coach Kurt Forrest said.
“It’s no small feat getting a home playoff game, especially in our region,” he said. “When you look at the competition in our region, to be one of the top four and have the opportunity to host a playoff game is something our kids should be really proud of. They’ve done a great job and they’ve earned it.”
The Indians (8-2) will face another huge test when St. Henry (8-2) comes to town for a Division VI, Region 24 playoff game at 7 p.m. Friday night.
Mechanicsburg has been tested throughout the season, playing five playoff teams — Greeneview, West Jefferson, Fairbanks, Riverside — as well as two bubble teams in West Liberty-Salem and Kenton Ridge.
“Our schedule and our league does a fantastic job of preparing us for postseason play,” Forrest said. “Our seniors have played in a lot of playoff games and been around playoffs games. We’re going to have a huge task in front of us with St. Henry, but that’s what this time of year is all about. We look forward to the challenge.”
The Redskins’ losses were also to playoff teams, Anna and Marion Local. They’ve won three straight, including snapping a 22-year losing streak to Coldwater with a 28-10 victory in Week 8.
The senior-laden team starts eight to nine seniors on each side of the ball, Forrest said. They’re also big up front, including Caden Niekamp, a 6-foot-7, 285-pound offensive tackle committed to Ball State University.
The Redskins will use an I-formation offense to run the ball between the tackles with featured back Zach Niekamp, who rushed for 218 yards and four TDs in the win against Coldwater.
“They’re huge everywhere and they play big,” Forrest said. “Offensively, they’re not trying to trick you. … They’re going to try to line up and run right over you.”
The key for the Indians will be controlling the line of scrimmage, Forrest said. The defense has five shutouts this season and hasn’t allowed more than 21 points in a game all season.
“We’ve got to get as many purple hats to the ball as we can,” he said. “Our defense has done a nice job all year long. We pride ourselves on being able to play great defense and run the football because as the weather turns colder, those are two things you have to be able to do.”
The Indians are led by senior running back Joey Mascadri, who needs 49 yards to reach 1,000 on the season. Quarterbacks Logan Hurst (504 yards) and Aaron Conley (570 yards) and recevier Keith Bebout (583 yards) are also big threats in the Indians’ offense.
St. Henry’s visit to Mechanicsburg will be the first time the Indians have hosted a Midwest Athletic Conference team since 2005.
“Over the years, we’ve competed very, very well against the MAC,” Forrest said. “Hopefully that trend continues.”
The Indians have excelled despite not always being the biggest, fastest or oldest team on the field, Forrest said. They’ll likely play up to three seniors, he said.
“I’ve been really proud of this group,” Forrest said. “We pride ourselves on being fighters. No matter what happens, we’re going to fight our tails off and do the absolute best we can. This group has embodied that.”