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High school football: Trojans kick off season Friday

Jordan Willi/Daily Globe Worthington Trojans football players run sprints during the first day of practice on Aug. 12. WHS opens its regular season on the road in Fairmont Friday.

WORTHINGTON — With the start of a new season just a day away, the Worthington Trojans hope to shake off the summer rust and pick up where they left off at the end of last season.

“The offense started to click at the end of the year,” Grimmius said. “The linemen started to figure out the offense ... And the good thing about that is that now, with camp and the two-a-days we are having before the season, we’ll be at that spot with the offense going into the season.”

The Trojans started off the 2012 season with three straight losses to Fairmont, Jackson County Central and Pipestone Area but rebounded with back-to-back wins over Windom Area and Canby. After suffering two more losses to Luverne and Marshall, Worthington’s new run-oriented offense finally clicked into place against Redwood Valley where the Trojans had three running backs with 100-plus yards in the game, including a 200-yard performance from Marcus Potter.

“Last year was kind of a learning curve for the new offense, not just for the players, but for the coaching staff as well,” Grimmius said. “We had to go really slow last year because it was a new system. We started out last year in the first two games with a double tight formation because at that point I wasn’t comfortable putting anything else in.

“But as the season progressed, we started to open up the formations and started to put in some motions as well. That’s where we wanted to be in Week 1 or Week 2, not in Week 6, but if you go too fast you’ll confuse them and it won’t do any good.”

The running game should be a strong point for the Trojans this season with a solid returning group of running backs and play-callers.

“There is never a locked-down position; there are some favorites going into the season because they have worked hard,” Grimmius said. “We bring back Blake Schroeder, who played quarterback for us last year, as well as Will Dudley and Marcus Potter. That is pretty much are whole backfield when you add in running backs Troy Ektnitphong and Brandon Grey. Those guys all played in the backfield last season and they are all back.”

However, Worthington did lose a fair amount of production and leadership due to graduation.

“We lost A.J. Hayenga from last year, but we have guys who can step into that role too,” Grimmius said. “He is a hard player to replace, but not just in what he gave us on the field just in yardage and blocking. It is his leadership that we will miss most. And through his leadership last year, kids wanted to be like A.J.”

Competition will be key for the Trojans to fill the holes left by last year’s seniors, and Grimmius is confident that someone will step up to take control of each position once the season starts.

“We’ve had a lot of competition throughout the whole summer,” Grimmius said. “There are a lot of kids who stepped up throughout those things and there has been a lot going on from our last game last October to September this year.

“Kids get better and, unfortunately, some kids take time off, so the other kids who played behind them last year might step ahead of them this year. With the number we have out here, there will be competitions for spots and we can also say who will be next in line.”

The one area where Grimmius is most concerned is about finding strong replacements in the offensive line, where the Trojans lost three starters from last year’s squad.

“Our big problem is that we have to replace a lot of guys up front,” Grimmius said. “We lost three guys who we have to replace who started for us last year. With that being said, we return two other guys up there.

“We have Trevor Wietzema, who was a sophomore last year but played like an upper classman. We do have some favorites that go in there, but none of those kids are in there just because they played last year. Every single one of them worked hard in the offseason.”

One of the toughest tests for the Trojans this season will come in the first three weeks when they go on the road for three straight games to face Fairmont, Luverne and Redwood Valley.

“We are going to have to be road warriors at the beginning of the season since we’ve got three games away right off the bat,” Grimmius said. “And those games are all against really good ball clubs, with Luverne, Fairmont and Redwood. So, we are going to to have our work cut out for us to start out the year.”

The season doesn’t get any easier for Worthington on the back end, with the Trojans’ final four games coming against Annandale, Marshall, Pipestone Area and Jackson County Central.

“Our goal is to go game by game and keep our focus on the team we are playing that week,” Grimmius said. “Our other non-conference game this season, we pick up Annandale who comes out of the Wright County Conference, which is probably the toughest conference in the state of Minnesota, or one of the toughest. And Annandale has been to the Dome a lot of times. They were in the semifinals last year at state and if you look at their history, they are a tradition-rich program, so they will be tough.”

Despite the high-caliber teams the Trojans will face off with this season, Grimmius will not let his team look past the team’s season opener in Fairmont on Friday.

“Our schedule isn’t slack by any means, but, you know what, it is high school sports,” Grimmius said. “If, game-by-game you keep getting better and have fun, good things happen.”

Kick-off for Friday’s matchup with Fairmont is at 7 p.m.