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Doug Wolter: MLA's football cup is running over

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Doug Wolter: MLA's football cup is running over
Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

Imagine the football team of your dreams. How would it perform?

If you’re the kind of fan who dreams of pure, unadulterated dominance, it might perform like the Mountain Lake Area Wolverines. Five games into the 2013 high school football season, the Wolverines are pummeling their 9-man opponents the likes of which you’ve never seen.

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They have outscored their opponents 362-35. They are averaging 72.4 points per game.

Here are the quick highlights:

-- Game 1: MLA 73, Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton 22. Over 550 yards total offense for the Wolverines. Carter Kirk 17 carries, 257 yards, 4 TD; Andrew Hempeck 15-79, 1 TD; Demar Rodney 9-78, 1 TD.

-- Game 2: MLA 91, Renville County West 7. The Wolverines led 53-0 at the end of the first quarter. The entire second half was played with a running clock. Kirk 7-185, 4 TD; Hempeck 2-69, 1 TD; Rodney 3-62, 1TD; Logan Johnson 4-49, 1TD.

-- Game 3: MLA 54, Hills-Beaver Creek 0. H-BC held to negative 19 yards rushing. Hempeck 8-115, 3 TD; Kirk 5-92, 1 TD; Rodney 6-51, 1TD.

-- Game 4: MLA 77, Southwestern United 0. SWU no first downs in the first half. Kirk 11-139, 4 TD; Rodney 4-49, 2 TD; Johnson 1-47, 1 TD; Chris Boyd 5-42, 1 TD.

-- Game 5: MLA 67, Westbrook-Walnut Grove 6. W-WG outscored 47-0 first half. Kirk 15-216, 3 TD. Kirk also completed seven of 11 passes for 114 yards and 2 TD.

Everybody knew Mountain Lake Area would be an exceptional team this year. The Wolverines returned a treasure chest of their experienced players from a 9-3 season in 2012, which ended in a state quarterfinal loss to Grand Meadow. They’ve got 52 kids on their 2013 roster and there’s more junior-senior experience there than you can shake a stick at.

OK, but what explains these extraordinarily high scores, and the kind of rushing statistics Adrian Peterson can’t even touch?

“We’re clicking on all cylinders,” MLA head coach Tim Kirk explained to me (as if I didn’t already know it). “We have various formations and plays, and we’re a quick-strike team. All the turnovers that we have forced, I believe we’ve scored on almost every turnover we’ve had.”

Kirk goes on to explain that his defense has been adept at keeping rival teams backed up on their end of the field. MLA special teams has put pressure on opposing punters to keep the Wolverines in great field position.

It all shapes up as a perfect storm working in Mountain Lake Area’s favor.

The team is led by the coach’s son, senior quarterback Carter Kirk, a 6-7, 230-pound athlete who has been heavily recruited by colleges for both his football and basketball skills. He plans to play basketball at the next level, at Southwest Minnesota State University-Marshall.

Coach Kirk says the spread offense is Mountain Lake Area’s “bread and butter.” The playbook is advanced, and he’s been able to add to it each week due to the dedicated and experienced group of players he’s got on the team.

“We don’t want to have the ball for eight or 10 plays. We’d like to have it for about six plays and, hopefully, have it in the endzone,” says the coach.

When the Wolverines lost in the first round of the state tournament last season, they decided right then and there that their only goal in 2013 was to win it all.

“You gotta set high goals for a team like this,” coach Kirk said.

Yes, indeed.

At this point in the story, dear readers, you’re may be thinking that the Wolverines are unrivaled —the class of the state — in a league of their own. Well, don’t bet the farm yet (a few hogs, maybe, and throw in a few chickens if you’d like), but don’t get too carried away. The Wolverines play in Section 3, and Section 3 also contains a couple of other dominant teams. One of them is Edgerton/Ellsworth, the 2011 state champs who are also 5-0 this fall —and a team that has outscored its opponents by a combined 296-55.

There’s another section rival, too, and that’s Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley, which won the state championship in 2012.

Hills-Beaver Creek coach Rex Metzger, whose Patriots played and lost to both MLA and E/E this year, believes that the best three 9-man football teams in the state reside in Section 3A. Who can argue?

The Wolverines and the E/E Flying Dutchmen go head-to-head on Oct. 11, and Metzger is one of many who wonder what might happen when both teams get their first big test of the 2013 campaign. The Dutchmen have a strong line and a couple of physical linebackers, Metzger says, who might give MLA some trouble.

I’m assuming both the Dutchmen and the Wolverines are welcoming this upcoming test. Dominating your opposition is not always the best way to prepare for bigger games later on. Blowing your opponents out by halftime forces you to take out your starters, limiting their opportunities to adjust and improve. When victory seems all too easy, it might make it all that much harder to perform at a high level when adversity comes a’calling.

Coach Kirk knows the danger. But what’s he gonna do? After these games have gotten out of hand, he’s ordered simple dive plays that still have gone for long gains. In three of the games, his starters have been pulled by halftime, and in some others they’ve been pulled in the third quarter.

But Kirk —like Metzger — expects the Oct. 11 game to be different.

“The Edgerton/Ellsworth game, I’m hoping and I’m guessing all players will be out there for all four quarters,” he said.

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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 six grandchildren. Doug, retired after a lengthy career in fast-pitch softball, enjoys reading, strumming his acoustic guitar and hanging around his grandchildren. He self-publishes short stories in his spare time. Two of his stories, "The Genuine One" and "The Old Man in Section 129" are being distributed through a national publisher.
(507) 376-7328
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