CALDWELL - Caldwell High has already achieved its main preseason goal by winning eight games and qualifying for the Division VII, Region 25 playoffs.
At 7 p.m. Saturday night the No. 6-seeded Redskins will look to stretch that goal one game further as they travel to Malvern to take on the No. 3-seeded Hornets.
The Redskins finished the season by winning their final six games in a row, largely due to a defense that allowed just 15 points per game during the streak and a pair of sophomores who developed into one of the premiere backfields in the Mid-Ohio Valley.
KEVIN PIERSON The Marietta Times
Caldwell’s Bricker Lori (29) tries elude a Fort Frye tackler on Oct. 18.
"We were real close to figuring things out last year it just took some time," said CHS head coach Josh Perkins, whose team went just 2-8 in 2012. "We just have a great group of kids that really enjoy playing together that finally got on the same page."
While it took the Caldwell offense a few weeks to get things together, the red, black and white defense was solid from the get go as it allowed their opponents to score more than 20 points just one time in the entire season.
"It all starts up front and our defensive line has been solid all year long," said Perkins, a 1993 graduate of Caldwell High School. "Our kids go with what the coaches give them and they watch a ton of film. They have become a defense that plays fast, hits hard, and has been able to cause turnovers."
Senior Andrew Minosky leads the defense in tackles with nearly 150 on the season while lineman Austin Schockling has registered 111 tackles, 17 of them for lost yardage.
Opposing quarterbacks have seen their fair share of Kameron Rayner, as the senior linebacker is nearing a school record with 13 1/2 sacks on the season while defensive back Tanner Clark has came up with six interceptions and a pair of fumble recoveries on the season.
Sophomore Bricker Lori may well have saved the Redskins season when he stopped Fort Frye's Colten Shuster at the goal line as time expired in an emotional 20-19 win over the Cadets.
Lori and Clark have both had breakout seasons offensively behind an outstanding Caldwell line.
Clark, a southpaw quarterback, finished the regular season with 899 passing yards and 958 yards rushing.
Despite being just a sophomore, Perkins has been quite pleased with Clark's ability to lead by example.
"He's (Clark) got a lot of moxy. The kid loves to play and compete and work hard and because of his attitude, the other kids love playing with him," said Perkins.
It may have taken Lori a little bit of time to get accustomed to a new Caldwell offense, but once he did, he did in a big way as he rushed for 100 yards or more in seven of the final eight games.
"He had to learn to become a running back again after running the single wing last year," said Perkins of Lori, who exceeded 1200 yards rushing on the season. "Once he got going he has done a great job."
Perkins has viewed plenty of tape on his opponent (Malvern) and he expects a team that will try to win with good old-fashioned smashmouth football.
"They are about 80 percent run. They have a running back (Cobin Plessinger) who has rushed for over 1700 yards and will likely be first team all-state," said Perkins, who himself rushed for nearly 1700 yards as a Redskin way back in 1992. "We just have to prepare and try to beat them at their own game."
If common matchups are any indication it likely will be a low-scoring, close ball game.
Both teams played Newcomerstown in the 2013 season as the Redskins dropped a tough 7-0 decision to the Trojans in their season opener while Malvern nipped Newcomerstown 10-7 two weeks ago.
Joining Clark and Lori in the backfield will be Minosky, while Tanner Baker, Johnny Carpenter and Jaden Border will line up as receivers.
The Redskin line figures to be Chance Rucker and Alexis Cubas at the tackles, Jamieson Ackley and Clay Poling at the guards with Zach Miller at center.
Defensively, look for Rayner, Schockling, Cubas, Ackley, Christian Guy and David Ivey to see time on the line, with Minosky, Carpenter and Lori in the linebacker positions.
Clark, Border and Caleb Heller will see the bulk of the time in the Redskin secondary.
The Todd Shadle- led Hornets went 8-2 on the season and captured the Inter-Valley Conference for the fifth time in the last six seasons.