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Doug Wolter: Trojans, Bluejays, don't lose your optimism

The Worthington Trojans and Minnesota West football teams haven't gotten off to good starts, but by eliminating mistakes decent seasons can still be salvaged

Doug Wolter
Doug Wolter
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Some thoughts about the football season, and just a smidgeon of a rant (I promise) on baseball:

Trojans need consistency

I saw the Worthington High School football team on YouTube in its season opener at Jordan, and last Friday I watched the Trojans in person on a rainy night at Trojan Field against Pipestone Area. I would say my considered judgment on this WHS team is, well, I’m not sure yet.

They’re not playing like gangbusters, that’s for sure. But they had some moments against Jordan and they had a few against the Arrows, too. Yes, they’re 0-2 after losing 41-13 and 34-10.

I hate grading on the curve, but we need to be a little more patient with this Worthington team. In both games, I saw some excellent plays -- not enough of them, to be sure. And I sure enough saw some defensive breakdowns that bit the local team in the butt. I also saw a ton of flags in the first half of the Pipestone game that made me wonder if the refs were being paid by the penalty.

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Worthington Trojans Marenono Opiew (6) turns to catch a pass after out running Pipestone defencive back Hudson Burnett (33) Friday night in Worthington.
The Worthington Trojans' Marenono Opiew (6) turns to catch a pass after out-running Pipestone Area defensive back Hudson Burnett Friday night in Worthington.
Tim Middagh / The Globe

But what I like about this team is that it will tackle on defense. This team does tackle, and if it can learn more discipline, I think it can win. Both the Hubmen and the Arrows hit on a few big plays over the last two weeks, and that can be fixed. Offensively, the Trojans have a couple of good runners and more than a couple decent receivers.

The receivers need to drop fewer passes, however. The defensive backs clearly need to drop fewer interceptions, too, frankly.

Head coach Geno Lais said after Friday’s game that his seniors want to win. The coaches, he said, didn’t need to say all the right things at halftime against PA because the players said it themselves. The seniors and other team leaders insisted they’re a good football team, and they’re determined to show it.

“I see a lot of optimism and a lot of hope. We do a lot of good things. We just gotta see a little more consistency,” Lais said.

In the Jordan game, said the coach, the Trojans pursued well and showed “grit.” In the next game Pipestone Area used a couple of trick plays to score -- a tactic that might not always work for other teams.

But the WHS offensive line needs to improve, Lais declared. It needs more discipline and maturity. Hopefully that’ll come in time.

This Friday, Worthington will host St. Peter in its 2022 Homecoming game. The Saints are 0-2 with losses to Waseca 45-13 and Fairmont 32-6. Both Waseca and Fairmont are good. Worthington can’t afford to take anything for granted against this week’s opponent.

“We need to get a win. To get on the right track. Learn how to win, and that would go a long way,” said Coach Lais.

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Absolutely true. There’s no substitute for winning, and though this Trojan outfit still believes in itself, only by winning will they prove it to their doubters.

Home cooking for the Bluejays

Everybody wants to be a road warrior, but it sucks to be on the road for the first three football games of the season. Especially when you’ve got to travel from Worthington to Orange City, Iowa, Wahpeton, S.D., and then way up north to Virginia, Minn.

It’s hard to say how much those road trips sapped the energy of the Minnesota West Bluejays en route to their disappointing 0-3 start, but this week they’ll finally get to stay home for a game against Central Lakes of Brainerd.

Before the regular season began, the Bluejays made no bones about the fact that they expect big things this year. Now is the time to break out. Time is already working against them.

In Saturday’s 44-20 loss to Mesabi Range, the Minnesota Westers went heavy on the passing game. They attempted 73 passes, in fact, for 402 net yards. Still, they achieved only moderate success.

Why so much throwing?

“Just because of what we saw, and we were just trying to get our backs out in the passing game,” said head coach Jeff Linder.

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But there were too many mistakes made in the contest, Linder said. Mistakes led to two quick Mesabi Range scores. There were mistakes on special teams. There were too many dropped passes, even.

The Jays had good momentum coming out of the half, but they gave up a touchdown which the skipper said “just took the wind out of our sails.”

One of the Bluejays’ top offensive threats, wide receiver Ian Stamer, was hurt early in the second half and didn’t return (though he expects to play this weekend). The defense did a good job stopping the run, but gave up too many big plays.

The players are frustrated, but they’re still confident, Linder said.

“They’re excited to be home. They realize that we’ve gotta stop shooting ourselves in the foot,” added the coach.

Central Lakes will pose another big challenge. The Raiders are coming off a 29-23 victory over Rochester and history has shown that they’ve always played the Bluejays tough.

Vikings start well

Vikings 1, Packers 0. I’ve been reading that Mike Zimmer’s last year with the Minnesota Vikings was an unhappy one for the players, some of whom were fed up with the coach’s rude personality. Players said they see the new regime as a welcome breath of fresh air.

It certainly looked like the Vikings were ready to play Sunday against the Green Bay Packers, and the results appear to bear out their optimism for the season.

MORE FOOTBALL
The regular season is winding down and the playoff season looms for area high school football squads
Worthington High School's Nasim Zeidi is a hard-hitting linebacker, but he knows there's more to the game than wins and losses
The Minnesota West Community and Technical College football team will play Dakota State JV on Sunday, Oct. 9, at Madison, S.D.

The Packers might have lost the game as soon as their very first offensive play, when rookie wide receiver Christian Watson dropped a sure-fire touchdown pass. They never got it together after that. The Vikings, however, were totally in charge.

It’s early, but you gotta wonder if the changing of the guard has finally come to the NFC Central. Aaron Rogers no longer has Davante Adams as his security blanket. Meanwhile, the Vikings’ Justin Jefferson looks like the second coming of Jerry Rice.

Eliminate the curve ball

Well, major league baseball execs finally did it. They banned the defensive shift.

It was a gutless move, if you ask me. Major league infielders simply should be able to stand wherever they want to stand, and if hitters don’t like it they should learn to hit to the opposite field.

OK, if that’s the way you want it, here’s another proposal: Ban the curve ball. Hitters don’t like that, either.

Doug Wolter joined the Worthington Globe in December of 1983 as a sports reporter. He later became sports editor, and then news editor and managing editor. In 2006 he moved to Mankato with his wife, Sandy, and served as an editor at the Mankato Free Press. In 2013 he and Sandy returned to Worthington to take up the job of sports editor at The Globe, and they have been in Worthington since.

Doug can be reached at dwolter@dglobe.com.
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