Prep football: Trojans feeling more confident
WORTHINGTON — Two weeks ago, if you’d heard Brad Grimmius talking like he was talking Wednesday afternoon, you’d have checked his temperature.
“I think we’re just scratching the surface with this team,” Grimmius said.
Two weeks ago, the Worthington football Trojans were 0-2. Not only were they 0-2; they hadn’t even scored a point.
But today they’re 2-2. After being shut out in the first half of their third contest against Redwood Valley (their 10th straight quarter held scoreless to begin the 2013 season), they rallied to beat the Cardinals 14-6. Then last Friday, in their first home game of the season, they controlled Windom Area to the tune of 42-14.
That’s 56 points over the last six quarters, if you’re counting.
This Friday the Trojans have a homecoming game against the Annandale Cardinals. Grimmius holds no illusions about the Wright County West Conference team, who he calls a fast and very physical “smashmouth” squad. Even so, he believes in big ideas.
Ever since the Trojans made a few key changes on offense prior to the Redwood Valley game, Worthington’s offense has improved. It also helped that, at halftime against Redwood, Grimmius and his coaching staff constricted the playbook, essentially throwing out half of the plays. Almost immediately, the offense showed signs of life as players focused on the plays they knew they could run. The Trojans are still working out of their smaller playbook.
“It gives the guys less to think about so they can execute,” Grimmius says.
Two weeks ago, nobody would have expected that Grimmius could be discussing a possible Southwest Conference championship with his team. But the Trojans are now 2-1 in conference play and a conference title — at least in theory — is within reach. Whereas other coaches might declare such talk off limits, Grimmius isn’t afraid to talk about success. He wants his gridders to believe that they can achieve.
“It all comes down to heart,” said the coach on Wednesday.
Grimmius says his Trojans are anxious to improve. To help them, there is a production chart on a wall of the WHS fieldhouse that indicates pluses and minuses in the team’s weekly performances. Besides statistics, the chart points out individual “effort plays” as well as mental errors and something called “loaf” — an indicator of players taking plays off, which nobody wants to be associated with.
The loafs are disappearing. There were nine loafs connected to Worthington’s second game of the season against Luverne. There were no loafs in the Redwood Valley game. And no loafs in the Windom Area game.
The coaches also feature something called “hammer hit” — not an indicator of crushing blows delivered to opponents, like the name might suggest, but an accolade for playing hard, for doing things fundamentally sound. There is a sledgehammer on a fieldhouse wall figuratively given to the player who is the best hammer hitter of the week. Jessie Guerra, a 5-8 senior, has won it three weeks in a row.
After the season, at the WHS athletic awards banquet, one player will get to keep the sledgehammer itself.
“Now everybody wants a piece of that,” Grimmius said Wednesday afternoon.
Get ready for a wild ride
Friday’s Annandale-Worthington contest will be the first ever between the two teams. The Cardinals opened the season with a 41-26 victory over Waconia, then lost 27-18 to Delano and 48-28 to Glencoe-Silver Lake before beating Dassel-Cokato 36-27 last week. Matt Miller rushed 17 times for 180 yards against Dassel-Cokato and Card teammate Andrew Russek added 164 yards on 19 carries. Riley Atkinson completed seven of 15 passes for 70 yards.
In assessing the Cardinals, Grimmius said they have mostly a 5-3 look on defense, and their players react very well. Offensively, their tendency is to run multiple formations in a power running game that will force the Trojans to stay focused. Annandale will also get into a wildcat formation, putting its No. 1 receiver behind center to take snaps. Typically, AHS will run sweeps or traps out of the wildcat.
“When they’re in the wildcat, we’re going to have to defend the whole field,” Grimmius said.
Grimmius termed the Wright County Conference one of the toughest conferences in the state. Annandale’s two losses have been to two strong opponents, he said, and he expects to see a very well-rounded opponent on Friday.
“If you look at ’em on tape,” said Grimmius, “it’s the total package.”