‘Lot on the line’ as Lakers face Northwood

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Northwood University Logo

Courtesy Photo / Northwood University Logo

Cody Eding

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For only the second time since 2005, the Grand Valley State University football team will enter a regular-season game looking to avenge a loss from the previous week.

The No. 8 Lakers (8-1, 7-1 GLIAC) will face Northwood University at home Saturday in the first of two must-win games to close out the season after dropping a 20-17 decision to Michigan Technological University on the road last weekend.

“I guess our backs are definitely against the wall,” said GVSU head coach Matt Mitchell. “We need to win these last two ball games to secure another conference championship and to make the playoffs. If we don’t win both games remaining, we’re going to put ourselves at serious risk of not making the playoffs.”

GVSU has made the postseason nine years in a row. Ironically, the Timberwolves are the last team to beat the Lakers at home, winning 35-14 in 2004.

“There’s a lot on the line here heading into Northwood,” Mitchell said. “There needs to be a high sense of urgency with our football program from the coaches on down to the players.”

Northwood’s (4-5, 4-4 GLIAC) formidable defense could pose problems for GVSU’s rushing attack, Mitchell said. The Timberwolves are led by linebackers Andrew DeWeerd and Spencer Remtema. DeWeerd leads the team with 75 tackles while Remtema has 66 tackles of his own.

“Their two inside backers and their two inside down kids are pretty physical,” Mitchell said. “It’s not going to be easy to run the ball on them inside. So we’ve got to do a good job getting back to what I believe the strength of this football team is — our offensive line, our rushing offense.”

The Lakers had a season-low 16 yards rushing against Michigan Tech.

“We can’t be expected to throw the ball 50 times a game and be able to win,” Mitchell said. “We’ve got to be able to run the ball and stop the run.”

Northwood runs a wishbone-style offense similar to what many of the military academies have used in the past. Quarterback Aaron Shavers, who Mitchell said provides a legitimate passing threat in the option-based scheme, leads the team in both rushing and passing and has accounted for 19 touchdowns this season.

GVSU last faced Northwood in 2007, which means most of the current Lakers were not on the team or played minimal roles in that game.

“Probably the biggest concern for us as a coaching staff is that we really don’t have anybody on our defensive side that has faced this type of option attack,” Mitchell said.

Stopping the option offense will fall heavily on the defensive ends and linebackers. Mitchell said he will look for big games from redshirt freshman linebacker Luther Ware, senior linebacker Justin Victor, senior cornerback Chris Huley and junior safety Zach Breen.

The Lakers are coming off a game in which the team allowed 313 rushing yards, including 293 yards to Michigan Tech running back Phil Milbrath.

“It’s going to be a big challenge for us this week to get our kids prepared to stop a rushing attack, especially coming off of not playing some very good rush defense,” Mitchell said.

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