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Prep football: Key early-season contests are on the schedule

WORTHINGTON — After two awful performances to begin the 2014 high school football season, the Worthington Trojans are desperate for better luck Friday in their homecoming clash against New Ulm.

“We couldn’t start out the year any worse,” admitted head coach Brad Grimmius Wednesday afternoon before practice.

In Luverne, Jackson County Central, Tracy-Milroy-Balaton, Adrian and a few other locations around southwest Minnesota, the mood may be much different. Luverne and JCC clash in Jackson on Friday in a matchup of longtime successful former Southwest Conference rivals. T-M-B is at Adrian in a game with important early-season implications in the Little Sioux Conference.

Other games on tap for Friday include Pipestone Area at Fairmont, St. James Area at Windom Area, Edgerton/Ellsworth at GHEC/Truman, Cleveland at Heron Lake-Okabena, New Ulm Cathedral at Red Rock Central, Hills-Beaver Creek at Mountain Lake Area, Fulda at Nicollet, Alden-Conger at Westbrook/Walnut Grove, Murray County Central at Canby, West Lyon at Sheldon, Central Lyon/George-Little Rock at Bishop Heelan and Sibley-Ocheyedan at West Morona.

Worthington (0-2) has been outscored 99-14 in its first two games, falling 52-14 to Redwood Valley in its road opener, then 47-0 to Waseca in its first home game of the season. Unable to sustain drives on offense and prone to giving up big plays on defense, the Trojans have nowhere to go but up.

Grimmius says the problem is not that the team can’t make plays, but that his players don’t make them often enough.

“Right now it’s blocking and tackling,” he said. “When we want to, we do all right. And the problem is when we don’t want to, it’s glaring. It stands out real easy.”

In practice this week, the WHS coaches have stressed the importance of showing up for every play every Friday. Grimmius wants them to relish the opportunity to hit somebody on game night. In other words, to get tougher.

“They’re more than capable. They just have to find the right button,” said the head coach.

In the week leading up to the New Ulm game, the brain trust has made some switches on offense and on defense. Perhaps the biggest move defensively was to move senior Carson Hagen to middle linebacker. On offense, senior Logan Thuringer, who was ineligible for the first two weeks, is taking over for sophomore Tucker Sorenson.

In New Ulm the Trojans face a team coming off a 34-13 season-opening loss to New Prague. Poor tackling was cited as a major problem for the Eagles — which is just the thing that has plagued the Trojans.

New Ulm was 0-9 last season, which might inspire overconfidence in some opponents. Worthington, however, should not be overconfident against anyone, warned Grimmius.

“We shouldn’t take anybody for granted. We haven’t earned the respect to take anybody lightly,” he said.

Another game worth noting this week is the Tracy-Milroy-Balaton at Adrian clash. The Panthers, 8-4 last year, opened last week with a 40-7 victory over MACCRAY. The Dragons, 7-3 in 2013, beat Canby 35-17.

Logan Rogers passed for 131 yards while rushing for two touchdowns and throwing for another in Adrian’s win. The Dragons accumulated 220 yards rushing while holding Canby to 210 total yards.

Before they joined the Big South Conference, Jackson County Central and Luverne enjoyed many fine seasons in the Southwest. Last week, JCC opened the 2014 campaign with a 43-20 victory over another school with an outstanding tradition — Fairmont — while Luverne defeated St. James Area 33-8.

Keegan Moore (15 carries for 185 yards), Ryan Salzwedel and Demonte Thomas each scored twice for the Huskies. Luverne gained 338 yards offensively — 256 on the ground — against the Saints while allowing just 95.

Doug Wolter

Doug Wolter is the Daily Globe sports editor. He served as sports reporter, then sports editor, news editor and finally managing editor at the Daily Globe for 22 years before leaving for seven years to work as night news editor at the Mankato Free Press in Mankato. Doug now lives in Worthington with his wife, Sandy. They have three children and seven grandchildren. Doug, retired after a lengthy career in fast-pitch softball, enjoys reading, strumming his acoustic guitar and hanging around his grandchildren. He also writes books on fiction. Two of his stories, "The Genuine One" and "The Old Man in Section 129" have been distributed through a national publisher.

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