Prep football: JCC, Marshall to clash Friday
JACKSON — If recent history is any indication, the Marshall football Tigers consider the Southwest Conference to be their own personal property.
But the 2013 campaign looked unique from the start. The Tigers, 27-4 over their previous three seasons, graduated 26 seniors from their 2012 conference title team, and after they lost their first two games (24-13 to Robbinsdale Cooper and 15-2 to Fairmont), the stage began looking clear for a new champ.
Not so fast. The Tigers are learning quickly, following up their 0-2 start with victories over Southwest Conference opponents Luverne (22-7) and Pipestone Area (47-22). MHS is still the team to beat.
If any conference foe stands to knock off the Tigers, however, it might be Jackson County Central. The two teams meet on Friday at Southwest Minnesota State University and, like Marshall, JCC appears to be getting better each week.
After beating St. Louis Park 21-7 and losing to a powerful Foley team 42-7, the Huskies have gone 3-0 against conference competition. A 26-2 win over Redwood Valley, a 34-6 win over Pipestone Area and a 39-13 win over Luverne puts JCC in position to pull off an upset.
“This time, at least, we’re not staring down the barrel of 29 seniors,” JCC head coach Tom Schuller remarked Monday about the enrollment-rich Tigers.
True enough. But Schuller knows not to take MHS lightly. He was never one of those people, anyway, who believed the Tigers were ripe for the picking this year.
“If you’re overconfident about a large four-A team, it slips from overconfidence to foolishness,” he said Monday.
As proof that the Tigers are getting better and feeling more confident, themselves, Schuller says that it appears his rivals are expanding their playbook to include more shotgun and wing-T offerings. The Tigers’ team speed is a definite concern.
Not that JCC doesn’t have weapons, too. Schuller says players from the school’s highly successful wrestling program are smoothly transferring their strength and competitiveness to the football field. Also, quarterback Shadrach Wacker’s quickness and ability to run the option is paying off — the offense’s completion percentage is going up, and the running game has been excellent over the last two games.
JCC has good leaders in three-year starter Matt Schmit (OT-DE) and Nolan Hohenstein (OG-DT).
“The offensive line is probably the strength of our team,” Schuller said Monday. “If you’re going to draft one thing for high school, you’d like to start with the offensive line and work from there.”
No doubt, JCC would love to supplant the Tigers from their Southwest Conference perch. But Schuller says he has an even bigger goal in mind, and that is to score points toward more home games for the upcoming Section 3AA playoffs. A win over the Tigers would transfer nicely in the section point standings.
Said Schuller: “The conference is nice. But the section is what everybody plays for.”