When Giltner plays at Shelton Monday in the Class D-2 state playoff semifinals, the biggest challenge will be provided by the Hornets’ offense.
For both teams.
The high-tempo, high-scoring, wide-open offense of No. 3-rated Giltner (11-0) is unlike anything seen by No. 6 Shelton (10-1) this season.
But, on the other hand, the Hornets haven’t seen what the Bulldogs’ defense does against that style of attack.
Which side adjusts best to the unknown could play a big factor in determining which team advances from the 7 p.m. game to next week’s state championship in Lincoln.
With only five days between last Tuesday’s quarterfinal win over Bertrand and playing Giltner, Shelton coach Mike Lowe has decided to keep it simple.
“Defensively, they’re a match-up you don’t see every day,” Lowe said. “They throw 40-plus times a game. Most of the time they have no more than three down linemen.
“It’s a challenge. We watched as much game film as we could, but we’re going to keep it simple. We’ve played football for 11 games, and most of our seniors have played for the last four years. They know what we’re doing. We don’t want to change everything over five days, then have them go out and have their heads swimming (in the game). We’ll stick to basics.”
Adjusting on the fly is something Giltner is used to by now. Studying game film usually won’t prepare the Hornets for what a defense will do against them.
“They’re definitely a pretty good defense,” Giltner coach Jeff Ashby said. “They do some different things. But it’s hard to gauge what they’ll do against us. We’re a different type of offense than everybody else, so when we get there, we’ll have to make adjustments to what they’re doing.”
No team has slowed down Giltner yet this season. No opponent has held the Hornets to fewer than 42 points — and that includes Bruning-Davenport/Shickley, which defeated Howells-Dodge last week to advance to the Class D-1 semifinals.
The Hornets average 65.2 points and 325.6 yards passing per game. Quarterback Jake Findley has completed 199 of 284 passes (70.1 percent) for 3,127 yards and a single-season state record 55 touchdowns.
Oh, and he has yet to throw an interception.
Kyle Hawthorne has 70 catches for 1,199 yards and 22 touchdowns. Dustin Hastings has added 39 receptions for 744 yards and 14 TDs.
But Shelton’s offense has also produced high numbers this season — 58.5 points and 363.8 yards rushing per game.
Luke Glenn has gained 1,926 yards and 35 touchdowns on 195 carries, an average of almost a first down (9.9 yards) per attempt.
That run game may be Shelton’s best defense against Giltner’s offense.
“The biggest thing for us will be ball control,” Lowe said. “We need to eat up first downs and eat up yards. They have a rhythm offense. If we can keep the ball from their quarterback and not let him throw a pass for five minutes, it’ll make it easier for us.”
That may be Giltner’s biggest concern with Shelton’s offense.
“Luke Glenn is a pretty good running back,” Ahsby said. “He’s got good speed and he can get running downhill. If you let him loose, he’ll turn it into a big run.
“I expect that Shelton is going to want to control the ball and chew up the clock. We’ve got to get some three-and-outs and get our offense back out on the field. Any turnovers could end up being a big deal.”
Both teams are understandably excited about being one win away from playing for a state title.
Giltner, which got Hastings and Garrett Poppen back from injuries last week, aims to get back to Lincoln after a two-year absence due to close losses to Howells.
“Their goal has been to get (to Lincoln), and they’ve been doing a good job all season of staying focused,” Ashby said. “Every game, we’ve taken care of our own team business and not worried about the other team.
“We’ve tried to perfect some things that we can control, like cutting down on turnovers. I think we’ve had five turnovers all season.”
Shelton has never advanced to a state championship game. The Bulldogs lost in the semifinals in 1985 and 1991.
“I’ve told the team this is our goal since the beginning of two-a-days,” Lowe said. “They look at you like it’s so far off, but here it is 14 weeks later and we’re one win away.
“This is an exciting opportunity for the Shelton football team.”