MONMOUTH, Ill. - Monmouth will be vying for a piece of the Midwest Conference lead when the Fighting Scots host league-leading Lake Forest for a 1 p.m. kickoff Saturday at April Zorn Memorial Stadium as part of the college's Homecoming festivities.
Monmouth (3-2, 3-1) was picked as a co-favorite to win the conference crown
while Lake Forest (5-1, 5-0) was tabbed sixth in the preseason coaches' poll.
The Foresters have jumped out to a fast start, clipping co-favorite Illinois
College last week and edging Carroll - No. 4 in the poll - the week before.
"I knew going into the year Lake Forest was going to be a good team," said
Scots coach Steve Bell, whose team escaped Lake Forest with a 53-47 win a year ago. "I was not surprised that they've gotten off to a really good start.
They'll be confident, and they should be with the way they're playing."
Lake Forest's confidence has been boosted by fourth-quarter heroics. The
Foresters scored a late TD two weeks ago to down Carroll 13-10 and last week knocked the Blue Boys out of the league's unbeaten ranks by scoring two touchdowns in the final period. The win over IC gave the Foresters sole
possession of first place in the MWC. A week after Monmouth manhandled perennial power St. Norbert, the Scots fell 21-7 at Grinnell last weekend. Monmouth never got going in the game, managing less than 270 yards of offense and entering Pioneer territory just once in the
The Foresters' offense has been going and going. It centers around senior
quarterback Pete Scaffidi. The 6-foot-2 signal caller averages nearly 200
yards passing per game and has connected on 60 percent of his throws. He has connected with nine different receivers, but most often finds senior wide
receiver Austin Sobey, who has hauled in three of Scaffidi's 11 TD passes.
On the ground, expect another senior - tailback Al Mitchell - to get the call.
He's gained more than 600 yards on 119 carries. That's more than twice the
carries and nearly three times the yards of any of the Foresters' other backs.
Mitchell's six TDs also leads the team.
Lake Forest's offense has been balanced, averaging just over 185 yards rushing and nearly 200 yards passing per game. Bell sees that as a challenge.
"Scaffidi is a very good quarterback," praised Bell. "He makes good reads and
good decisions. Their running back is very good, too. That's a tough
combination to defend."
When it comes to defense, the Foresters have held opponents to just 88 yards
per game on the ground while giving up nearly 250 yards via the pass.
Defensive end Jake Rotkvich - a 240-pound senior - and linebacker John Dillon
have been in the opponent's backfield often, combining for 9.5 sacks to
complement sophomore linebacker Jordan Cruz and senior free safety Aiden
Price, who have combined for 90 tackles.
"Their defense is playing very well," cautioned Bell. "They're very good
against the run and always have been. They've got a lot of energy and are a
tough, physical unit. They fly to the ball, that's for sure."
The Scots faced a similar dilemma two weeks ago, and rose to the challenge by holding St. Norbert to just 236 yards of offense while putting 31 points on
the board for the third straight week. Bell hopes his team can find that magic
for the Homecoming game.
"We've got to play with more energy and passion like we did against St.
Norbert," said Bell. "We've got to take care of Monmouth. We didn't do that
Four teams could share the league lead after this weekend if Monmouth can
rebound from a lackluster showing last weekend and hand Lake Forest their
first league loss. Monmouth, Illinois College and St. Norbert - the top three
teams in the preseason poll - are a game behind Lake Forest in the standings.
That's something the Scots need to change if they plan to capture their fifth
MWC title in the last six years.
"There should be that sense of urgency," said Bell as the season enters its
second half. "We've got to have some kind of consistency across the boards. It can't be hit and miss. We need to know what we're going to get from every
player on every snap."