ORION, Ill. — Chip Filler admits there is more to playing Sterling Newman than just X's and O's.
With five state titles and a head coach with more than 300 wins, it's easy to get a little bit lost in the moment when lining up against the Comets.
"Their mystique gets you," the Orion head coach said. "If you're not ready for them and that mystique, you're kind of in awe when they come off the bus a little bit."
The Chargers had their awestruck moment in Week 3 of the season, falling behind 35-7 en route to a 35-21 loss to the Comets. There's none of that this week as the seventh-ranked Chargers prepare for a rematch with the top-ranked Comets in a Class 2A quarterfinal Saturday in Sterling.
"We are not intimidated at all," junior Logan Lee said. "We're very eager to play them again. We're not overlooking them in any shape or form, but we're very confident this week.
"It was a big advantage being able to play them before. We know what to expect. We know their scheme a lot better because we got the chance to play against them."
It's no secret what Sterling Newman (11-0) plans to do — run, run and run some more. The Comets piled up 361 yards on the ground in the first meeting, led by Easton Bianchi, who had 10 carries for 197 yards, including touchdown runs of 72 and 88 yards.
But getting a chance to see the running attack up close and personal was a valuable experience for the Chargers, who enter the game at 9-2.
"We know what to expect from them," said Lee, who has more than 20 tackles for loss this year for the Chargers. "The biggest thing for us is being able to stop their offense. Our defense really needs to step up. We need to be able to win early downs and put them in bad positions."
Orion certainly has the tools to pull the upset.
The Chargers have a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in Sam and Seth West and a defense that's allowing 11.1 points per game, third best among the remaining teams in Class 2A, behind Newman (10.0) and Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley (6.0).
Orion's biggest key, if it wants to make its first semifinal appearance since 2007, is finishing. In the first meeting, the Chargers had nine drives penetrate the Newman 30-yard line but only three ended with scores.
Orion showed the ability to throw the ball against the Newman defense, with Dawson Schulenberg throwing for 202 yards and a touchdown, but could have had more with several passes dropped in the game.
"We're just going to have to work on our blocks, know who we're blocking in all of our schemes and really execute," junior lineman Austin Mack said. "We know what we're doing, and we have the ability to get it done."
Filler said the passing game will relied upon Saturday, though the Chargers are hoping they don't have to ask their junior quarterback to drop back 45 times as he did in the first meeting.
"If we do that that means we're going to be trailing a lot. We've got to be efficient in what we do in the passing game, picking up third downs and taking shots when they're there," Filler said. "We're still going to have to run the football, and the team that does that, maybe not the team that rushes for 300 yards, but the team that can stay balanced and pick up yards when they have to on the ground is going to be the one that wins."