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Amateur football: Family mentality works for Huskerz

WORTHINGTON — The Southwest Huskerz are planning a fun family event tonight.

And you’re all invited.

The Huskerz, in their first season as members of the Southern Plains Football League (SPFL), like to think of themselves as a cohesive and happy family unit. Head coach Ken McCuen said this week that the team literally has gone through its 2014 amateur football schedule without issues — except for the injury-related kind — and walks into tonight’s SPFL championship game with a full head of steam.

Southwest is 9-1, and that record includes playoff victories against the Buffalo Ridge Wildcats 49-6 and the Albert Lea Grizzlies 39-6. McCuen and the Huskerz openly spoke of contending for a national championship before this season began, and naysayers — like teams that would stand in their way — are falling by the wayside.

“Did we set our sights high? Absolutely. But it really took the bus trips — winning is the best thing of all, of course — but when you grow relationships it’s kind of like follow-the-leader a little bit. It becomes contagious,” McCuen said.

Today at 7 p.m. at Trojan Field in Worthington, the Huskerz face the South Central Hawgs, who are the four-time defending SPFL champions and two-time defending national champions. Southwest defeated South Central 21-9 on May 10 on the road, but a lot of time has passed between then and the rematch.

“Beating them at their house early this season might have given them a wake-up call. They’re a better team now, and we think we are, too,” McCuen said.

In the May meeting, Southwest running back Darieon Smith rushed 12 times for 103 yards and a touchdown, and quarterback Jordan Larson completed four of 11 passes for 160 yards and a score.

The Hawgs possess a strong run game. The powerful Southwest defense specializes on stopping the run.

In the regular season game, Southwest was able to take away the Hawgs’ explosive plays. In tonight’s game, McCuen says, “It’s gonna come down to who wins in the trenches. And we’re probably pretty even there. Then comes the skill players. Each team has home run hitters. It’s about who steps up to the plate and hits it out of the park.”

The Huskerz have proven very capable of moving the football via the run when teams play their basic defense; or moving via the pass when they stack the line. McCuen considers Smith the most valuable player in the SPFL, and he considers Larson the best quarterback. Whether that’s true or not, no one can take away the fact that the Huskerz have the No. 1-rated offense in the nation, scoring 342 points in 10 games.

Southwest’s family-oriented Huskerz hope to have a big home-town crowd on hand tonight. Avalon School of Cosmetology will sponsor the game, but all of the team’s sponsors will be recognized at halftime.

Avalon will offer free face painting beginning at 6 p.m. The first 200 fans will receive a free Huskerz Avalon stadium cup, and a raffle will take place for a football signed by the Huskerz players. Fans correctly answering trivia questions will be rewarded with Avalon retail baskets.

Doug Wolter

Doug Wolter is the Daily Globe sports editor. He served as sports reporter, then sports editor, news editor and finally managing editor at the Daily Globe for 22 years before leaving for seven years to work as night news editor at the Mankato Free Press in Mankato. Doug now lives in Worthington with his wife, Sandy. They have three children and seven grandchildren. Doug, retired after a lengthy career in fast-pitch softball, enjoys reading, strumming his acoustic guitar and hanging around his grandchildren. He also writes books on fiction. Two of his stories, "The Genuine One" and "The Old Man in Section 129" have been distributed through a national publisher.

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