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MW FOOTBALL: West travels to Rochester tonight

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Minnesota West Worthington, 56187
Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

WORTHINGTON -- After a five-game losing streak left a bitter taste in the mouths of the Minnesota West football team, it made Saturday's victory that much sweeter.

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"We needed to taste what it was like to get a 'W' again," MW head coach Jeff Linder said. "Whenever you get one, it's always good. With the way we've lost some close games this year, we really needed to have something happen for us. We actually went out and earned it. It wasn't like too much was given to us, we just went out and got it."

The Bluejays (3-5, 1-2) will try to duplicate that feeling tonight at Rochester.

"We've always been capable of beating the teams we've played," Linder said. "We just haven't been able to put anything together and we haven't had much go our way. So when we went out and earned one on Saturday against Fergus, I think it built our confidence back up. There is a lot more hop in our step. It should be a fun game."

A week ago, MW rediscovered its running game, something Linder hopes continues tonight.

"Maybe it's because our running game hasn't been so good the last three or four games," the coach said. "We really haven't established the running game. We had a hard time the last few games prior to Fergus. Maybe it all came together finally. It's not like we didn't have one before, we just couldn't get anything put together."

Against Fergus Falls, the Bluejays rushed for 308 yards, led by 148 yards and four touchdowns from Joe Harris.

"It takes a lot of pressure off our defense," Linder said. "We kept the defense off the sidelines more than they've been off most of the year. We were able to keep our defense fresh. It's just an all-around good thing to have your offensive unit stay in a good rhythm and stay on the field."

The defense needed all the rest it could get.

Tonight, the Yellowjackets come in with the top-scoring offense in the league and a close second in total yards gained.

"You have to get pressure on the quarterback and try to make sure you stay in coverage with (receiver Chris) Hicks," Linder said. "The problem is he has other receivers that do just as good of job. It's going to be tough. They have a good offensive line and a good quarterback. The running game is pretty solid."

Quarterback Derick Heitkamp's 1,661 yards and 23 touchdowns both lead the Southern Division.

Hicks has been on the receiving end of 655 yards and 13 of those touchdowns.

"I personally think they are going to go for the throat immediately," Linder said. "They're not going to sit back and confidently know they're going to win the game. I think they are going to go for the throat immediately, which is fine. We'll be ready for that. We're going to have to play like we're capable of playing and execute offensively and defensively."

MW, meanwhile, is coming off one of its best offensive games of the season. The Bluejays have rushed for displayed exceptional balance this season, rushing for 971 yards and throwing for 974.

Defensively, after holding the top two rushers to a combined 150 yards last week, the Bluejays are poised for another solid week.

"The players did a good job of executing and staying positive and creating things for themselves," Linder said. "As much as a coach likes to out X and O another coach, we really can't go out there and play. We can have the best game plan in the world, but you still need to go out there and execute. Hats off to my players on both sides of the ball."

While MW is out of the playoff picture, that won't take anything away from a rivalry between the two schools.

"It's going to be a good, challenging game," Linder said. "I think the guys are up for, just listening to them (Tuesday) amongst themselves. We have a lot of freshmen on the team that don't understand the rivalry between the two schools and the tradition Rochester has had. But they'll learn real quick."

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