New year, new offense, same expectations for WHSWORTHINGTON — In 15 years of coaching football, Worthington coach Brad Grimmius has never had an offseason quite like this. Not only did he lose a quarterback/wide receiver combo that put up big yards in the likes of Lucas Henning and Mitch Weg, but he also lost a solid linebacker in Tanner Rogers.
By: Jordan Willi, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — In 15 years of coaching football, Worthington coach Brad Grimmius has never had an offseason quite like this. Not only did he lose a quarterback/wide receiver combo that put up big yards in the likes of Lucas Henning and Mitch Weg, but he also lost a solid linebacker in Tanner Rogers.
Due in large part to the departure of three players, Grimmius made the tough decision to reboot his whole offensive scheme this offseason. The Trojans are going from a pass- first offense that relied strongly on the throwing and catching abilities of Henning and Weg to a ground-and-pound, run-the-ball- down-your-throat attack that will predominantly feature the athletes who line up behind the quarterback instead.
“Those three are our big losses,” Grimmius, who is in his 13th season as coach of the Trojans, said. “Over the last couple years, I’ve seen us struggle even with the likes of Henning and Weg on our offense. It really hits you when two of your top performers at those positions in school history are on your team and you still go 3-6 like we did last year.
“So now we are trying to get back to old-time Trojan football, which means running the ball more.”
With the loses of six seniors and the switch in offensive styles, Grimmius knows he might have to rely more on underclassmen to pick up their game and play significant minutes this season. This is something new to Grimmius, since most of this season’s sophomore and juniors saw very little time on the field last fall due to the depth of upperclassmen at most positions.
“We have a solid core of players who came back this season,” Grimmius said. “They are all hard workers. This season, some sophomores will see playing time, but a few of them might be thrown into games and big situations right away.”
With the Henning era at quarterback over, the Trojans had to find a new play caller to run the offense. Will Dudley got the start in WHS’s first game, but Grimmius is open to a platoon system, which will include Blake Schroeder.
“This new system makes it easier on the QB,” Grimmius said. “I am looking for a leader who is respected by the players and who demands respect as well.”
The all-important running back position is also another spot with considerable competition. The Trojans will be using a three-back system in the new offense this season, so they will need to find three dependable players to carry the offensive load.
Troy Ektnitphong is getting the nod at fullback, while A.J. Hayenga and Marcus Potter will be the halfbacks for Week 1. Seniors Aaron Pavelko and Tristan Sorensen, along with juniors Brandon Gray and Zach Kempema could also see the backfield at some point.
Grimmius knows that, with his team making the shift from throwing to running the ball, the play of the Trojans’ offensive line will need to improve.
“We want them to get off the football quicker this year,” Grimmius said. “We need them to fly off the ball and hit someone in order for the running style of offense to work and be effective.”
While the Trojan offense is making the shift to a run-first mentality, Grimmius is also looking to mold his defense into a hard-hitting, tackling machine other teams will be afraid to play against.
“We are changing our whole approach to the game,” Grimmius said. “We want to be a lot more physical, which means getting off the football faster. I want our defense to be more aggressive all across the board, whether it is on the blitz or any other play. We want a lot of movement from the whole defense this year.”
One of the keys for this year’s team will be how well the younger players, and the team as a whole, responds to adversity. If the Trojans can overcome the small things and learn to focus on the game as a whole, Grimmius feels they could be very dangerous.
“What it comes down to is how well the players respond to the ups and downs of a season,” Grimmius said. “If they feel down on themselves and let that affect their game, then things won’t go so smoothly. But if they take things in stride and play with a chip on their shoulders, who knows how well we could do.”
The Trojans take to the road to face the Jackson County Central Huskies at 7 p.m. Sept. 7 before coming home on Sept. 14 to duke it out with the Pipestone Area Arrows at Trojan Field.
Worthington also goes on the road to face off against the Windom Eagles (Sept. 21), the Canby Lancers (Sept. 28), as well as the Marshall Tigers (Oct. 12) this season.
Home games for the Trojans will also feature bouts against the Luverne Cardinals (Oct. 5) and the Redwood Valley Cardinals (Oct. 17).