MW FOOTBALL: Bluejays ready to tame the Thunder today at homeWORTHINGTON — The life of a kicker is an interesting one. He goes unnoticed until he misses a kick or, in some cases, is simply not there. After last season’s 14-13 loss to Fond du Lac, Minnesota West’s football team was well aware of the importance of a kicker, mainly, because the Bluejays didn’t have one for that game.
WORTHINGTON — The life of a kicker is an interesting one. He goes unnoticed until he misses a kick or, in some cases, is simply not there.
After last season’s 14-13 loss to Fond du Lac, Minnesota West’s football team was well aware of the importance of a kicker, mainly, because the Bluejays didn’t have one for that game.
It’s a game MW coach Jeff Linder certainly hasn’t forgotten.
“I remember the day too because it was extremely hot,” Linder said. “We got momentum on that last drive, but just couldn’t get it in.”
The Bluejays had the ball inside the Thunder 20 at the end of the game, but could not punch it in for the game-winning score. A 37-yard field goal isn’t necessarily automatic, but MW didn’t even have the option last season.
“At the time, our field goal kicker was out, so we didn’t have that option,” Linder said. “We were kind of hand-tied a little bit and we had to try to punch it in to go ahead.
“At our level, there is not a whole lot of teams that have two kickers on a team.”
A blocked extra point proved to be the difference between victory and defeat last season. Fond du Lac returns 12 starters from last season to the noon kickoff today at Trojan Field and is focused on improving its running game behind James Griffin and Jordan Myles. MW let up just 106 yards offensively to Itasca in the Bluejays’ 40-0 domination of the Vikings in the season opener. Linder, however, has no focus on last season’s agonizing loss nor does he care about last week’s shutout. For Linder, it isn’t over until it’s over.
“It’s a new year and we had different kids than last year,” Linder said. “We just needed to be a little more prepared than last year. What we learned from last year is that we need to finish games.”
The Bluejays shut out the Thunder in the second half of the game last season and even had the ball twice in the last four minutes of the game, but could not convert.
This season, MW (1-0) has Tyler Smith if a repeat of last season happens, which means the Bluejays may not necessarily need to find the end zone.
“It feels good to have a good strong kicker that’s healthy and able to kick field goals,” Linder said. “We just weren’t consistent from any field goal range last year. Now we have more options. If we get in that 30-to-35-yard range, instead of going for it on fourth down, we have that option to attempt a field goal.”
It also doesn’t hurt that Fond du Lac is coming to MW’s house.
“We’re just really excited to be home,” Linder said. “These guys are ready to play again after a long week of practice and that’s good to see.”
Daily Globe Sports Editor Chris Murphy may be reached at 376-7328.