The NWOC football title is on the line in a clash of top-10 teams

For Sandy football, it doesn’t get much bigger than this. The No. 10 Pioneers, who are coming off an emotional 27-21 win at Liberty last week, host top-ranked Sherwood on Friday in one of the most significant regular season games in school history.

“Our players are very upbeat and in good spirits after Friday,” Sandy coach Joe Polamalu said. “We have to get right back to it, because we know we have another one coming up.”

Sandy (6-1) has already clinched its best season in years, but the Pioneers haven’t seen a team like Sherwood (7-0). For that matter, no one has.

Since losing the 2011 state championship game by one point, the Bowmen have demolished every team they’ve come across. They have rolled off 20 straight victories, winning each game by an average of 42 points. The Bowmen won the 2012 state title to cap an undefeated, 13-0 season. So far this year, Sherwood’s closest game was a 41-point trampling of St. Helens.

There is nothing Sherwood doesn’t do extremely well. Its defense has suffocated the opposition time and time again. Sherwood’s offense is among the best ever seen in the state. The Bowmen are led by running back Keegan Lawrence who has rushed for 17 touchdowns and more than 1100 yards in seven games. The Bowmen have 15 different players with at least one rushing touchdown this season.

Quarterback Kevin Larkin hasn’t had to throw much, but he has tossed nine touchdown passes without throwing an interception. Sherwood’s unstoppable offense has scored at least 60 points in five of the team’s seven games so far.

“Because they are so stinkin’ good and fundamentally sound, it’s crazy to think you are going to stop them,” Polamalu said. “They are going to get their yardage, you just hope to make them earn it. You hope they get it here and there instead of in big chunks.”

If any team can slow down Sherwood, it might be the Pioneers. Their defense has had a knack for causing havoc and forcing turnovers, which will be essential against the Bowmen. Sandy’s run-heavy offense lends itself keeping games close. By keeping the ball on the ground, the Pioneers can eat the clock and give the defense a breather. If they can string together a few first downs, they might have a chance to limit Sherwood’s powerful offense.

Sandy may also have the edge when it comes to motivation. The Pioneers will be looking for some payback after Sherwood ran up 84 points against them last season. They also are trying to rise in the state rankings with the playoffs looming a few weeks away. Sandy would secure one of eight automatic berths into the playoffs by climbing two spots in the rankings.

However, the Pioneers don’t want to get caught up with numbers and things in the future that are out of their control. What Sandy can control is its attitude and effort against Sherwood, and that is all Pioneers are thinking about.

“We are just going to prepare the best we can,” Polamalu said. “We know we are facing a tall order, but we are going to work hard to try and meet it.”

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