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Game of the Week: Three items to watch between Avon and Tripp-Delmont/Armour/Andes Central/Dakota Christian

When/Where: 7 p.m. today in Avon.

Coaches: Tripp-Delmont/Armour/Andes Central/Dakota Christian's Mark Gemar; Avon's Tom Culver.

Forecast: The temperature at kickoff will be 84 degrees and southwest winds at 8 mph.

Records: Tripp-Delmont/Armour/Andes Central/Dakota Christian is 0-2; Avon is 0-2.

Here are three items to watch for in tonight's Daily Republic Game of the Week between Tripp-Delmont/Armour/Andes Central/Dakota Christian and Avon:

Finding their footing

Through the first two weeks, Avon and Tripp-Delmont/Armour/Andes Central/Dakota Christian have struggled to find their footing. The Pirates and Nighthawks are a combined 0-4 and have been outscored 199-18.

For the Pirates, they had 17 players on last year's team and graduated 10 seniors. This season, Avon has suffered a pair of defeats against Corsica-Stickney (58-0) and Alcester-Hudson (53-0).

"We've got young kids," Avon coach Tom Culver said. "We are starting two freshmen and stuff like that. We only have five juniors and seniors total. It's been an adjustment and these kids have kind of been thrown into the fire."

The Nighthawks, meanwhile, have also gotten off to a slow start. They lost to Alcester-Hudson (34-12) and Colome (54-6) in the first two weeks. Coach Mark Gemar said the Nighthawks are faster and more than athletic than previous years, but they haven't put it all together so far this season.

"We just haven't finished plays," Gemar said. "We have been there to make tackles. We just haven't finished. We just didn't finish plays basically is what it comes down to."

Winning up front

Both coaches noted how they haven't won the battle in the trenches through the first two weeks, which is where both feel today's game will be decided.

"They are pretty big up front," Culver said about the Nighthawks. "They have some good sized kids and our frontline is not small and I really thought going into the season that would be our strength because we had a couple starters back in the line and stuff. So far, they haven't really played up to what I thought they would. So we kind of challenged them this week that we need to be the leaders up front."

Gemar said the same thing and added execution will also be important today.

"We have to execute," Gemar said. "Missed assignments, missed blocks, muffed snaps—we will be out of the shotgun quite a bit—we can't have those. We can't have turnovers at crucial times."

Players to watch

Avon starts a freshman quarterback in Riley Rucktaeschel and he's got a pair of big bodies at his disposal in wide receiver Kory DeJong (6-foot-3, 170 pounds) and tight end Logan Schuurmans (6-foot-6, 200 pounds).

But Culver said it starts up front with senior linemen Max Mach and Jason DeJong.

"I really kind of challenge those two this week to step up and be leaders and play to their ability," Culver said.

For the Nighthawks, Cliff Johnson and Cade Gemar have powered the defense. Coach Gemar said Johnson, a 6-foot-5, 285-pound lineman, leads the team in tackles.

"Cliff has been all over the field," Gemar said. "Sideline to sideline, he's been running plays down. They have been doing really well defensively for us."

Offensively, coach Gemar said wide receivers Daaron Tronvold and Micah Lau have been reliable weapons for quarterback Jace Faulkner.

"He's been doing some good things for us," coach Gemar said. "He's always a threat to throw or to run for us. We have got some weapons out there. Now we just need to put it all together."