Doug Wolter: Kudos and challenges for area prep sports teams
The MCC football team has important challenges ahead due to a key injury; HL-O/F gets high praise for its volleyball performances thus far
Glancing back and glancing ahead in area high school sports:
MCC takes big hit
Injuries are always a part of football, but the Murray County Central Rebels sustained a big one Friday in their 25-8 loss to Tracy-Milroy-Balaton. Workhorse running back Carter Benda, who rushed for more than 1,600 yards last year in helping the Rebels to the Class A state tournament, dislocated his shoulder in the first quarter against the Panthers in the first quarter.
The injury occurred after Benda scored the first touchdown of the game on a 23-yard run. He was successful on the 2-point conversion, too, but after he crossed the goal line he came back to the sidelines and reported that he couldn’t feel his shoulder.
On Sunday, head coach Patrick Freeman said Benda sustained a grade three separation. It is estimated he could be out of action six to eight weeks, meaning he may not return for the rest of the season.
MCC posted an 11-1 record in 2021 and enjoyed a good start to 2022. The Rebs won their first two games 36-6 over MACCRAY and 44-20 over Wabasso. But after Benda went down Friday, T-M-B took over.
“Obviously, we didn’t adapt well. After the opening kickoff we got the touchdown and the 2-point conversion, and after that we didn’t do anything, said Freeman. “They came and were more physical and had a good game plan going.”
The Rebels finished with just 28 net yards rushing on 23 attempts.
MCC entered this season stocked with good skill players but with inexperience on the line. The line has made progress, but this week the coaching staff must consider how to replace their most prolific offensive star.
“Someone’s going to have to step up. Everything’s kind of on the table right now,” Freeman said over the weekend.
MCC is at St. James Area this Friday.
Lots of strong volleyball teams in area
I went to two successful area prep volleyball coaches on Monday to get their thoughts on which area teams are looking most impressive at this stage of the season. Said Windom Area coach Crystal Fast, “Based on what we’ve seen, definitely Heron Lake-Okabena/Fulda. They’ve got some real solid players. We played them this weekend. I was real impressed with their defense. Jackson (County Central), obviously they’re a very good team. Jaci Farmer runs their offense; she just knows the game and sees both sides of the court.”
Fast also likes a talented and senior-dominated Pipestone Area Arrows squad and the Luverne Cardinals, who are known for putting up fine blocks. She says of Worthington, “They’ve got athletes.”
Windom Area has an excellent team, too, and one that exhibits exceptional determination in Fast’s book. Twice this year, the Eagles have trailed teams 0-2 and come back to win.
JCC coach Deidre Wierson likes HL-O/F for its “scrappy defense. Pipestone Area, Windom Area and Luverne deserve shout-outs, too. The Huskies have experienced some mild injuries recently, but Wierson said, “We are starting to become healthy. We are starting to come together with our roles on the team.”
Gut-check time for WHS gridders
The Worthington Trojans’ 27-0 loss to St. Peter on Homecoming Night was probably the most disappointing performance yet. Not only did it drop the team to 0-3, but the offense never did get in gear.
Head coach Geno Lais said his offense was “nonexistent.”
“I think it came down to, we didn’t execute well. We’ve got to get better up front. We’ve got to work on some things that are fixable.”
The good news is that the problems are indeed fixable. But it’s certainly going to take a lot of work. Lais said the line must improve on its double-teams, its combo blocks, and even in putting the right foot forward. Players need to stay on their blocks longer, and they also need to move their feet better in pass protection.
In three games, Worthington has been outscored 102-23. This week’s game is against the Marshall Tigers, in Marshall. The Tigers are 3-0 coming off a 56-0 victory over New Ulm. Both of Marshall’s first two opponents, Fairmont and Waseca, are 2-0 in games played against other opponents.
“We’ve got a tough stretch of the schedule coming up. We’ve got to get better. We need to go one and oh every week,” Lais said.
Great expectations for WHS boys soccer
I gotta admit, it’s hard to maintain a celebratory point of view about the Worthington High School boys soccer team this year. But I get it. I’m pretty sure the players get it, too.
Here’s the thing. The Trojans were 9-0 prior to Tuesday’s scheduled home match against Waseca, and in those nine matches they’d outscored rivals by a combined 32-4.
Before the regular season began, head coach Juan Flores cautioned fans that his team might start slowly. He said there might even be a couple of setbacks in the early part of the schedule before the Trojans adjusted to significant graduation losses from the 2021 state tournament team.
Instead, the Trojans have done what they always do. And that is, win steadily.
And as they’ve won, Flores has been quick to point out the team’s negatives. He does this, obviously, because he wants his Trojans to be the best they can be for the most important matches later in the season. He demands improvement because he knows that even the best of teams can succumb to complacency.
These WHS soccer players have great natural talent. But talent alone doesn’t win championships.
Even so, I’ve just gotta say this: Trojans, I think you’re doin’ great.