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Adrian looks for revenge against Cook County

WORTHINGTON -- If history repeats itself, the Adrian and Cook County semifinal game will be a dogfight to the end.

The Dragon and Viking football teams have met twice before -- both times in a state championship game.

In 1997, Cook County defeated Adrian by a single point, 13-12, and the game in 1998 was even more dramatic.

"In double overtime, they had the ball and were going in to score," Cook County head coach Mitch Dorr said.

"On fourth down, we stopped them on the one-inch line and won. It was unbelievable."

After trailing 16-0 in the game, Cook County defeated Adrian 38-32 in double overtime in a game that still holds the record for longest championship game.

With kickoff slated for 10:15 a.m. in today's Class A semifinal game at the Metrodome, the Vikings will once again face a tough Dragon (10-2) team.

"We kind of feel like in a way, we're playing ourselves," Dorr said. "It's a pretty balanced team, and they have quite a few strengths. We're just going to have to play our best football."

Adrian is fresh off a 25-14 victory over Mankato Loyola, while Cook County (12-0) defeated Mahnomen, 30-7.

"They are a pretty good outfit," Adrian head coach Randy Strand said. "They are 12-0 for a reason. They've put up a few points in the playoffs, so we're going to have to contend with their offense."

The Vikings bring an option offense into Friday's semifinal game. While quarterback Miles Drake has thrown for 379 yards, his main threat is on the ground (979 yards) while running the offense.

"Our quarterback is reading the defense, and he goes by what he sees," Dorr said. "He's a playmaker, though, so we have a lot of confidence in him."

However, if Drake does decide to get rid of the ball, he has two potent options. Cody Everson enters with 482 yards, but the big threat will come from tailback Tait Sande.

Sande has amassed more than 2,700 yards this season, including 2,028 on the ground and 26 touchdowns.

"You only get to coach a kid like (Sande) maybe once or twice in your career," Dorr said. "I'm just hoping that I'm taking it all in."

For Adrian to be successful, the defense will be a key.

"Our defense has been playing real well lately, and we hope that continues," Strand said. "We'll play assignment football, and as long as we can continue to tackle like we have been, I think we'll be OK."

In recent games, the Adrian defense has played physical, a trend that Strand hopes to see today.

"We've been hitting some people lately. They kind of enjoy laying the leather a little bit, so hopefully, that continues," Strand said. "I think it's worn on the other team that we kept pounding. Hopefully, we have enough in our tank to continue to do that."

On the other side of the ball, Adrian will bring its own offensive strengths into the game.

The Dragons have rushed for more than 3,300 yards this season, including 1,000 from Jesse Brake. Glen Kruger has 730 yards in an injury-shortened season, while Tony Thier has 685.

"I think that both teams have pretty good backs, and I think that both teams have decent quarterbacks," Dorr said. "I think it's really going to be the team that maintains the line of scrimmage."

Even with a strong running attack, Strand admits that quarterback Brett Nowotny (36-of-73, 537 yards) may need to throw the ball more against the Vikings.

For Adrian to win, Strand hopes the team can just be in the game at the end.

"Hopefully, we can just keep hanging around and hopefully get up by a touchdown or so," Strand said. "I think some of these teams we've played haven't been behind that late, so all of a sudden, they feel a little more urge to score points."

But if the Dragon offense is going to get in the end zone, they will have to capitalize on their opportunities, something they did not do last week.

"We felt that we should have scored a couple more touchdowns last week," Strand said. "On our opening drive, we got inside the 20-yard line and stalled. Those are things that we were doing when T-M-B and Dawson-Boyd beat us, so we'd like to correct those things."

While playing at 10:15 a.m. is different from the night games the two teams are used to, an early game and a short warm up time may mean a slow start.

"They have to do it, too, so it's kind of an even playing field. These are kids, so they don't need as much sleep as I do," Strand said. "The alternative is that we could sleep in, but we wouldn't be playing."

With two evenly matched teams in the biggest game for each squad so far, neither coach would be surprised to see another close game.

"I think it's going to make for a good football game," Dorr said. "When you get to this level and there are four teams left, anybody can beat anybody. All four teams belong there, and the team that minimizes their mistakes and the team that makes big plays is probably going to be the difference."

Even facing a potent offense, an undefeated record and history against them, the Dragons won't be intimidated.

"They don't seem to be bothered by who they are playing," Strand said. "They just enjoy the moments that they get to play."