Saturday at noon, UMHB, ranked No. 2 in the nation, hosts Rowan of New Jersey in the second round of the NCAA Division III playoffs. Crusaders head coach Pete Fredenburg talked with Herald sports editor Allan Mandell after Wednesday afternoon’s practice.
Coach, how does Rowan look on film to you?
They are big, they are real physical. They look good. They don’t throw the ball a lot. They’ve got a nice, nifty running back that’s unique; he’ll be a big challenge to our football team.
That running back, Withler Marcelin (5-10, 195), with 1,397 yards, averaging 5.1 per carry — he’s the real deal, true?
Yes. He is good. He gets behind his big offensive linemen and finds creases. He does a nice job hitting seams where you wouldn’t think there’d be any. He has good field vision.
How have practices been this week?
They’ve been great, very active. We gave them Monday off. So many people aren’t aware of just how much sacrifice is involved in all this. For example, yesterday morning at 5:30, when I drove up to the office I saw 75 members of our JV walking into the weight room all ready to go — because they’re running our scout team, giving us pictures of what we’ll be going up against. To me, that was just extraordinary.
What type of defense does Rowan play?
They play a 4-3, four down linemen, three linebackers. Their middle linebacker is 6-2, 240, an all-conference player. They’ve got two all-conference ends, an all-conference cornerback, too. They have a bunch of good players. This is a talented team with a rich tradition.
Generally speaking, what’s the best way to attack this type of team?
We’ll try and spread them out a bit, run some things out on the perimeter, try and get our skill guys outside. We have to try and get their linebackers outside and try to create some mismatches.
Is there anyone on Rowan that can possibly block Silvio Diaz?
(Laughing) We think Silvio Diaz (6-0, 260, Sr.) is pretty special. But they do have some big players. We think he’s a handful. They’ll have their work cut out for themselves trying to block Silvio but Silvio will have to work hard as well.
After suffering an injury late in last week’s contest, how is your center Sterling Cantue (6-0, 250, Jr.)?
He’s fine. He’s working out. He’s really showed drastic improvements with that (leg) injury since the game ended. He’s determined to play. That’s just the kind of guy he is.
Your special teams came up so huge last week. Are there any players you want to single out in particular on that unit for exemplary play?
Well, Eric Allen (6-0, 170, Jr.) had an incredible outing. He ran a punt back for a touchdown, intercepted a pass.
Our special teams unit blocked two punts and blocked two field goals which I thought was extraordinary. We spend a lot of time practicing that. Tim Bower (6-5, 200, Sr.) has this unique quality of slipping the center and blocking field goals and PATS.
And last week, Bower almost got a blocked punt, too.
Yes, he almost got that one. He gets in there and does an excellent job for us.
Coach, you are four wins away from this team’s ultimate goal, a national championship. What’s the mood of the team right now?
I think we’re really enjoying this time of the year. Overall, we’re fine. We’re so blessed to have such good players and coaches. We love this time of the year. This is what we want, to get far in the playoffs.
Being in ballgames that have a lot of significance is what you strive for if you’re a competitor. You want to be in an environment like we are in right now.
I think this football team is poised to make a good, strong statement on who we are on Saturday. We sputtered a bit last week. Now, I’m excited to see our guys pick things up. As coaches, we’re excited to see what our players will do this game.