Heading into last Friday's game against Lena-Winslow, the Dakota Indians (7-2) were all but assured a first round game against a conference opponent, barring an upset victory. While Dakota fell to Le-Win 55-7, it was Princeville who was upset at the hands of Mercer County 26-13. Princeville's loss moved the Indians to the #7 seed in the North, ultimately avoiding the #1 seeded Le-Win Panthers and hosting a conference opponent. While Princeville (7-2) was projected to go 8-1, their loss moved them to the #10 seed setting up a matchup in Dakota.
"We were extremely excited to get an opportunity to play someone outside of the NUIC. It's always fun to play a team from a different part of the state this time of year. It's hard to do that nowadays with the north/south breakdown, but we're fortunate to get that shot", Said Coach Joe Free when asked about avoiding a conference foe.
Princeville plays in the Lincoln Trail Conference and has a history of strong teams. While being down a little this year, coach Free still knows Princeville poses threats to his team.
"Princeville is very athletic and they use their speed well. Their defensive line is disciplined and they blitz a lot which could give us fits at times. Offensively they like to run off tackle and hit the toss outside which we struggle with at times, so we have to really focus on blitz pickup and setting the edge this week".
Offensively, the Indians have been led on the ground by Junior running back Trey Englebrecht, racking up 844 yards on the season. While keeping Engelbrecht in the center of their plans, Coach Free knows that others will have to contribute now that the playoffs have arrived.
"I think it's more important that we establish Mason Peters early to be honest. It's easier to key on Trey if he's the only option, but Mason needs to step up at this time of year. He showed flashes last week at Lena on our touchdown drive and by him doing damage we were able to spring Trey for the TD. Mason and Trey have to be a combo threat now because in the playoffs we have to have a plan B".
Dakota is set to host Princeville at 2 p.m. Saturday October, 28th. The winner will take on the winner of the Orangeville vs. Annawan-Weathersfield match-up in the 2nd round.
Dakota is making their 23rd trip to the playoffs and 4th consecutive. Dakota resurrected as an NUIC powerhouse in the mid 2000's, as they ran off 3 state championships in 7 seasons under legendary Coach Jerry Lano. The Indians hit a 2 year rebuilding process for the first time in 15 years, but Coach Free has led the Indians back towards the top of the powerful NUIC Northwest Conference. Princeville is making their 20th trip to the playoffs and are in search of their first playoff win since 2008.
Dakota Indians 7-2
Conference: NUIC Northwest
State Titles: 2005, 2007, 2011
Playoff Record: 25-19
Conference: Lincoln Trail
State Runner-Up: 1975
Playoff Record: 13-19
Massey Ratings Dakota 28 Princeville 20
Calpreps Dakota 26 Princeville 22
Princeville' s coach declined comment