MW FOOTBALL: Blue Jays take 4-0 record on road against WarriorsWORTHINGTON —In the closing minutes of last week’s game, the Minnesota West football team had a decision to make. Go for one and the tie, or try for a 2-point conversion and the win.
By: Aaron Hagen, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON —In the closing minutes of last week’s game, the Minnesota West football team had a decision to make.
Go for one and the tie, or try for a 2-point conversion and the win.
“The play at the end, to go for the 2-point instead of the tie,” head coach Jeff Linder said. “They had an injured player so we had some extra time to think about it. I ran my kicking team out there and then called time out. There were a couple factors that were on my mind. No. 1, we had momentum completely on our side. No. 2, our kicker had been hurting a little bit and 3, we’re at home, let’s go for the win.”
The Bluejays lined up for the 2-point conversion and it proved to be the right call.
The conversion was good, giving MW a 41-40 victory.
“It’s’ pretty exciting,” Linder said. “Our boys played hard. It certainly wasn’t an easy game for us but they kept playing and persevered.”
Coming into the game, Linder knew Northland was going to be a tough game.
“They were a very physical team and they were a very, very good team,” Linder said. “We knew that going in. I thought when we started the game we were extremely flat. We weren’t, in my words, ready to play. We had gotten down 20 real quick. The one thing we’ve talked about always and every week, is that these guys keep playing hard all the way. It took them a while to get going and they put a little more pressure on themselves than they needed to and when you do that you’re more sluggish, you’re slower and everything. At halftime, we talked to them about going out and having some fun.”
The Bluejays faced a little bit of adversity to begin the game. The Pioneers ran the opening kickoff back for a touchdown and led 20-0 early in the game.
“They did punch us in the mouth and we didn’t respond very well to the start of that,” Linder said. “I think part of that has to do with us coming out so flat and just expecting to win. It took us a little while to get going. We didn’t lay down and we didn’t roll over by any means, but it took us a little while to regroup as a unit and as a team and try to focus back on trying to score one set of points at a time to get things to swing our way.”
The Bluejays took the lead for the first time with less than two minutes remaining. A big part of the comeback was special teams.
“We had three fake punts in. One went for a touchdown and two went for first downs,” Linder said. “I was kind of surprised they didn’t do anything with it; they made no adjustment to it. Coach (Brad) Holinka had discussed at any point, he was free to give the word to go ahead and do that.
“Special teams is a third of the game. It can make or break a game. Most definitely, this past week it made the game for us and we ended up winning the contest.”
MW is 4-0 and rated No. 18 in the country.
However, a tough Ridgewater team —which is also 4-0 —stands in the way in MW’s Southern Division opener.
“I think they are going to be a very tough team to play,” Linder said. “We’re undefeated, we’re undefeated. We are the only two teams left in the state of Minnesota who are undefeated. We are nationally ranked and they’re not. Why that is, I don’t know. I think that will be extra motivation for them. I think it’s going to be a challenge for us. We need to make sure we’re ready and ready for anything. We need to be prepared to play and go after it and try to get that win up there on a tough place to play.”
Linder points to the offensive and defensive lines as one of the strong points of the Warriors.
“I have all the confidence in my guys that I know I’ll get 110 percent all the way until the end,” Linder said. “But we still need to make sure we’re prepared. That’s the biggest thing that I’m going to say one time in practice, I don’t care about national rankings because they mean nothing right now. It’s OK for them to feel good about themselves and it’s something to be proud of, but we’re not to that level yet. We have a long ways to go.”
Even with the great start, Linder doesn’t want his team to get ahead of itself.
“When you are undefeated, you tend as a player to be very confident, sometimes overconfident and you can sometimes get yourself wrapped up on that and not look at the big picture and the big picture is standing right in front of them on Saturday,” Linder said. “Nothing else matters at this point. What you’ve done so far does not matter. We just need to make sure we’re focused and ready to play.”
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Coordinator Aaron Hagen may be reached at 376-7323.