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By: Seth Kinker, skinker@thesuntimesnews.com

Tomorrow, the Dexter Dreadnaughts will make the short trip to Pinckney to take on the Pirates in this renewed battle of SEC White teams when the Pirates re-joined the conference in 2017. 

Last year, the Dreads won a close 17-14 battle on Homecoming while the two teams took different directions. The Dreads qualified for the playoffs for the first time in school history while the Pirates missed the playoffs for the first time in two years. 

This year, the Dreads were out to prove last year wasn’t a one-time deal and the Pirates returned a lot of experience from last year’s young team that finished 3-6 as they try and get back to the postseason.

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Heading into week seven, both teams sit at 5-1 overall and 4-1 in conference and are tied for second behind the undefeated Chelsea Bulldogs, 6-0 (5-0).

Both teams have improved on both sides of the ball from last year. 

Dexter

Offensively, the Dreads tied their point total from all of last season last week in week six. 

Junior quarterback Collin Parachek has 1,621 yards, 21 touchdowns, and four interceptions, junior running back Evan Krolewski has 150 yards averaging 10 yards per carry with eight touchdowns, and senior Antwan Ficklen leads the receivers with 447 yards and 10 recieving touchdowns.

The Dreads have four receivers with double digit catches as the offense has only gotten faster in the second season with Parachek as starter. His younger freshman brother, Brennan, is first on the team with 31 catches and tied with two other receivers with three touchdowns on the year. 

Mason Loudermilk runs in a score last year against Pinckney. Photo by Mike Williamson.

The way Dread head coach Phil Jacobs attacks other teams is simple and with a balanced offense, it’s become that more potent.

“If they’re going to do ‘this’ ,we’re going do ‘that,’” said Jacobs. “That’s the way we operate. It’s nice to have both a passing and running attack.” 

Opposing offenses are only averaging 134.5 yards per game through six games against the Dread defense and they’ve only allowed six touchdowns on the year.  

“People thought I was crazy in the offseason with the exception of (first year defensive coordinator from Ypsilanti Lincoln ) George Michos,” said Jacobs when asked if he thought this defense could be better than last year. “We thought this defense could be better than our defense last year. We have our returning safeties, returning middle linebacker, Matt Gaechter as our weak side linebacker who had some varsity playing experience at the end of the year when Watson went down, a corner returning, (defensive end) Mark Young returning. The kids that came up from junior varsity, a good linebacker, two very good defensive tackles that’ve plugged in, a couple kids come out like Bryce and Jasper. Getting those two kids made us even better.” 

Senior linebacker Jordan Watson leads the team with 61 total tackles, two sacks, an interception, and forced fumble. At the top of the list on the defensive statistic leaders are players that return from last year with quality game time experience like Gaechter (41 total tackles, one fumble recovery) and safety Daniel Troncalli (36 total tackles, eight tackles for loss, one interception)

Also, in the mix are seniors Bryce Martin, a defensive end who is fourth on the team with 29 total tackles and six tackles for loss, and Jasper Howell, a defensive back who is fifth on the team with 26 total tackles, a tackle for loss, and an interception. Both are back playing football for the first time in awhile.

“We haven’t been tested since week one,” said Jacobs. “That’s the big question, how we’re going to respond to another 5-1 team. We talked to our players at film on Sunday night about taking ownership in the outcome of the game. Practicing that way. As a staff, we’ve brought you this far, it’s your turn now to take ownership in the rest of the season. Do you want to be 6-3? 7-2? 8-1? Or 5-4? It’s in your hands now.”

Jacobs talked to The Sun Times about the improved Pirates and how they differ from last year. 

“Last year they were one dimensional running the football,” said Jacobs. This year, (Pinckney quarterback Joe) Bona has a year under his belt, he’s got some very good receivers. They throw the ball down the field and they make plays. The running back, he’s a tough running back, a lot like Krolewski. They’re physical on defense, their front six and safety, are as physical as any front in the conference, but they also play good pass defense. Coach Beaton’s done a heck of a job over there. He does things the right way. We share similar philosophies. It’s not about our opponent, it’s about us. Let’s try and get better. Whoever we play, let’s take it out on them .” 

Pinckney

The Pirates have bounced back from last year winning five of their first six games and are one game away from all but securing a playoff spot with three games remaining. 

For Pirate head coach Rod Beaton, it’s about staying the course and continuing to do what they’ve done to get them to this point as he told The Sun Times he’s seen progression each week. 

“Offensively were starting to hit our stride with what we’re doing, and it’s about continuing to do that,” said Beaton. “Not adding or doing anything crazy, just continuing to believe in what we do. For us, it’s like were already in the playoffs. We’ve got three playoff games in a row when you think about it. Because if we want to get in, we got three tough ones and we have to get at least one to be able to go.”

Bona has 972 passing yards in six games with 9 touchdowns and only one interception. Beaton told The Sun Times that the progression and growth of Bona in the offseason are the fruits of that labor in addition to his complete understanding of the system. 

“I think it started to click when he started to spend time with Coach Patton in the offseason,” said Beaton. “Doing a lot of individual stuff and film work to get himself ready and it shows. He’s confident, he doesn’t have to think about it anymore he just knows. He’s grown as a guy that guys now look towards, if they have any questions or may be hesitant, they now go to Joe.”

Pirate running back Ethan Stinson makes a move towards the end zone against Dexter last year. Photo by Mike Williamson.

Last season the Pirates relied on a rushing attack with an experienced backfield as Bona got settled in. This year, Bona has improved and senior running back Sal Patierno has stepped into the number one back role nicely. He’s averaging seven yards per carry, 111 yards per game, and has 11 rushing touchdowns. 

“His body can take, if we need to, we can give it to him 20-25 times if need be and he’s ready for more,” said Beaton. “Getting him to be able to focus on one side of the football, letting him know ‘hey you’re our number one (running back). This is what we need you to do and what we need your focus to be.’ Thats helped him a ton as well.” 

High school football is all about plugging in new pieces and the Pirates took a look at their offense this offseason with how they wanted to get certain players on the field. 

Two players that are benefitting from that are junior wide receiver Jack Trachet and senior wide receiver Cam Gaden. Both have double digit catches on the season thus far and are favorite targets of Bona.

Beaton cited Trachet as one of the smartest players he’d been around football wise in a long time. 

“He really understands the game and sees things develop in front of him. He’s another one that knows the offense in and out. It doesn’t matter if he’s the Z or Y, it doesn’t matter. He knows where he’s supposed to be, where other guys are supposed to be so that helps him significantly in his route running. He’s a perfectionist. It helps him thrive.” 

For Gaden, it was about finding a spot for someone who was asked to play multiple roles last year. Now, mainly at wide receiver, he leads the team in receiving and catches. 

Defensively, Beaton said this team has gotten around to playing what helped  get them into the playoffs the prior two seasons. Speed and physicality. 

“This might sound coach speak or cliché but we truly value and put a tremendous amount of value on being fast and physical to the football. That’ll always be first and foremost. It’s guys believing in what we do, guys trusting in what we do, and guys taking ownership. we’ve got kids with tremendous attitudes that take pride in playing physical fast defense and it shows”

In addition to that, Beaton said the team is tackling better than they did last year and that big plays were given up last year as a result of that. 

Junior Hunter Hendricks leads the team with 61 total tackles and four tackles for loss, and senior Andrew Pilley has 52 total tackles. 

“At this point last year, we gave up 195 points through week six,” said Beaton. “This year, we’ve given up 61. It’s been good for us to see us get back to doing what we do. Flying around, being physical, and tackling when we get the chance.” 

While Bona has another year of experience, so does Parachek, and Beaton talked about the headache it has been thus far preparing for what he saw as a more matured and confident Dread offense. 

“He’s so good in the pocket,” said Beaton on Parachek. “He can sense pressure. That was the thing last year with him, I was super impressed with, we would get close  and he was very good at escaping and getting away from pressure even when he almost couldn’t see anything. that innate ability to sense pressure, somethings coming, and he can step up in the pocket or slide out and get out on the run and has guys that can catch. Coach Jacobs is putting his mark on things in year three. It’s showing what he’s building and establishing there. They’re dynamic.” 

Who: Dexter, 5-1 (4-1), vs Pinckney, 5-1 (4-1)

Where: Pinckney High School

When: 7 p.m.

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