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Adrian defense will have hands full with high-scoring Goodhue team in finals

RTHINGTON -- While most people are celebrating Thanksgiving with families, the Adrian football team celebrated with each other.

"We'll spend Thanksgiving night together," Adrian head coach Randy Strand said. "We'll just go out and find a turkey dinner someplace, so they can celebrate Thanksgiving a little bit."

But chances are, no one will be complaining about spending the holiday away from home.

"It's one of those moments that maybe we might not experience again," Strand said. "The alternative is that they can be home and have Thanksgiving, but miss out on a Prep Bowl."

Adrian (11-2) will face Goodhue (12-1) at 1 p.m. today for the Class A state championship.

"I don't think anybody's really thought about what it really is," Strand said. "That's how we've approached a lot of games so far. Just one game at a time and one step at a time."

However, the Dragons will face a high-powered offense in the Wildcats.

"They've got a few weapons," Strand said. "They've been putting up 40-plus points in the last nine games, so they are capable of going the distance in a heartbeat. We've got to be accountable. Everybody has to keep doing what they've been doing."

What the Dragons have been doing is playing solid defense. They allowed just 117 yards a week ago against Cook County, including just 29 yards rushing to a player with more than 2,000 on the season.

Goodhue brings an offense that has been averaging 45 points per game in the last 10 games.

Last week, the Wildcats defeated Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg 44-12 to advance to today's game.

Goodhue rushed for more than 300 yards, including 153 from Brett Watson (four carries), and 98 (17 carries) from Eric Ryan.

Ryan enters the contest with 1,500 yards this season, while Micah Huneke has nearly 800, and Watson has eclipsed the 400-yard mark.

However, Goodhue used big plays to score quickly against K-M-S.

"I think part of their forte all season long is to rip off some big plays, and all of a sudden, you find yourself behind," Strand said.

Even with a potent rushing attack, Goodhue is not one-dimensional.

"We run until they can stop us, and then we do something else," Goodhue head coach Clair Austin said. "We feed off the running game for the passing game. We run a lot of play action."

Kelby Buck threw for 135 yards last week and has 1,300 yards on the season.

"We've seen a few of those teams lately, and we've been successful," Strand said. "Our first and foremost is that we have to stop the run. If we can do that with the least amount of guys that we can, then we can help out with the pass."

To continue to be successful, Strand said being physical will once again be key.

"We have to bring it again. I think that's a trait of our conference and the type of football that we've played over the years," Strand said. "We try to be as physical as we can and keep pounding at them."

While the Wildcats played the day before the Dragons, the Adrian team was in attendance last Thursday.

"You get a little better knowledge of their quickness. Maybe it was more scary to watch them live than on tape," Strand said. "Anytime you can see a team live, it has to get you a little more prepared."

One concern for the Dragon defense will be the team speed Goodhue brings into the game.

"I think in terms of size, I think we look pretty even across the board. I don't think they gain anything or we lose anything," Strand said. "With quickness, they look like they have two or three kids that can run pretty well. We're going to have to keep them contained."

Even with the fast players and the quick-strike capabilities, the Dragons have to focus on containment.

"Part of our defensive philosophy is that if they are going to score, lets make them do it in several plays and not just one big play," Strand said.

However, Adrian will test the Goodhue defense as well. The Dragons used 104 yards from Tony Thier, 82 from Jesse Brake and 59 from Glen Kruger in their win over Cook County.

"We're not going to change a whole lot," Strand said. "We're going to stick to run, run, pass, punt and try to stay away from the last two. We want to establish the line of scrimmage, and we'll try to take advantage of what they'll give us."

While Adrian has not been in a state final since 1998, Goodhue played for a championship just two years ago.

"They'll know what it takes to get to the championship," Austin said of his team. "This has been our goal since day one."

If Adrian is going to be successful, the key will be on the line of scrimmage.

"Most of the battles are won and lost in the trenches," Strand said. "Our linebackers have to get things done."

Kruger leads the linebacking corps with 100 tackles, while Zach Reker has 107 this season.

With a successful year up to this point, the Adrian season will come to an end today, regardless of the outcome.

"We've always said that there's no more tomorrows," Strand said. "But it can't get any truer than when you are in the finals."