BLUEJAYS FOOTBALL: Bluejays looking to stay perfect on the season
VIRGINIA -- When Minnesota West took on Mesabi Range's football team last season the Bluejays broke out to a 15-0 lead after the first quarter.
Football games, however, are four quarters and the Bluejays were outscored 26-0 in three of them en route to a 26-15 loss.
The good news for MW is Mesabi (0-2) does not return the running backs, which ran all over the Bluejay defense, racking up 227 yards and three touchdowns last season.
"They've always been a very physical team and well-coached," MW coach Jeff Linder said. "It's going to be a challenge for the team and the coaching staff.
"They are a dangerous team because they are 0-2 and they are a lot better than 0-2."
The better news for MW is this Bluejay team is not the team from last season. With a 40-0 drubbing of Itasca and a 33-28 shootout win over Fond du Lac, the Bluejays are showing they can win in many ways.
"The mentality of our team alone is way different than last year," Linder said. "We play much better together as a team than as individuals and we've learned to finish games."
MW's win over Fond du Lac could not have been a better test of wills for the Bluejays. The offense had five plays from scrimmage in the first quarter -- two of which were fumbled back to Fond du Lac -- but the defense stood tall -- even scoring on an interception -- and didn't mind it one bit.
"We are a team together," MW linebacker DeAndre Ulmer said after the win. "If the offense is struggling, we just go out and execute. It doesn't matter if we are out there the whole time or not, we just stay together as a team and we knew we could pick each other up as a team."
"Offense made some mistakes and defense picked them up. That's all."
Although it wasn't easy on the old ticker, Linder couldn't have been happier with the Week 2 win. MW didn't just have to overcome the lack of offense in the first quarter, but the four-minute span to start the second half when the Bluejays went from leading 13-6 to losing 21-20 behind an 80-yard touchdown run and a 63-yard interception return for a touchdown.
"A good example of our mentality can be seen in last week's win when we had all the ups and downs," Linder said. "We used all that we had in the gas tank to finish."
With just seven returners from last season's squad, Linder is fully aware that this streak could just be the young guys running on fumes.
"The season is young and we're a young team, but they've shown a side of maturity to them that has come much faster than I expected and, quite frankly, quite a bit faster than our teams have in the past," Linder said. "They are still young. The part that helps them overcome is they are playing hard as a team. They are playing as a team for each other and not for anyone else.
"The people we have are from different programs and different parts of the United States and for that to happen so quickly is good to see. If they can continue to stay the course and play as a team, they'll do well."
Minnesota West will kickoff versus the Mesabi Norsemen in Virginia at 11 a.m.
Daily Globe Sports Editor Chris Murphy may be reached at 376-7328.