Football preview: Seniors lead the way for A/E; Trojans hoping for first win
Senior leadership has been a boon for the Adrian/Ellsworth Dragons high school football team this fall, said head coach Randy Schettler this week.
And senior leadership is necessary for a program that, like many other small-town programs, has seen numbers that don’t always measure up to the past. Football is a team game, and it is especially dependent on bringing a lot of healthy, gung-ho bodies into the picture.
Adrian is just one of many area prep football locations where success has taken root but has in recent years struggled with numbers issues. Other successful programs of the past, like those of Westbrook-Walnut Grove, Edgerton Public and Heron Lake-Okabena/Fulda, have similarly seen their enrollments fluctuating.
Today (Wednesday, Oct. 19) the A/E Dragons will play their final 2022 regular season game at home against a 5-2 Murray County Central squadron. Adrian/Ellsworth is a respective 4-3, and senior leaders like Quentin Wolf, Brock Henning, Tavian Lange, Reece Carlson, Peda Zeba, Breyer Hieronimus, Cameron Wieneke, Dawson Frodermann and Brandon Boltjes have delivered.
“I was hoping that the seniors would lead as they are, and put in some time in the off-season, and they did,” said Schettler.
The Dragons began the season with 32 players on varsity, but sometimes they’ve suited up fewer than that.
“Our schedule is pretty salty. I think I started with nine seniors. But that injury bug -- we haven’t been clear of that guy,” Schettler explained. “It’s kind of been a numbers game. I think we had 25 suited up on Friday, (grades) 9 through 12.”
Despite that, A/E was able to beat up on New Ulm Cathedral to the tune of 48-0, rolling up nearly 300 yards of rushing while doing so.
Adrian, of course, has famously been a run-heavy football team since the days of head coach Randy Strand. And now, under Schettler, the Dragons still like to run and run some more.
Winning has been hit-and-miss, and numbers have something to do with that. Schettler expects that the numbers won’t pick up very much next year, too, because this year’s eighth-grade class lacks depth.
There are other issues, of course, keeping football enrollments less robust than they used to be in the past.
Adrian used to have teams in a youth football league, Schettler pointed out. But that has gone by the wayside. Schettler said he could walk the hallways of the high school five or six years ago and count 29 kids that used to play youth football who were not playing in high school. When they approached junior high, they reconsidered the sport. Some actually told him that they just don’t like football any more.
Now more than ever, it seems, would-be players are not afraid to say no, Schettler said. He understands to a degree, however. Some of them are making good money working at jobs after school.
Things may be looking up, though. Luverne has a flag football program that Adrian joined about three years ago. At last check, there were 350 kids in the program featuring grades 1-6, and about 70 of them hailed from the Adrian area.
Schettler obviously hopes those grade school kids replenish the A/E rosters soon enough, but in the meantime he states his opinion that, generally, it’s harder nowadays to get the same sort of commitment than what was normal in past years.
“That’s a paradigm shift everywhere, I think,” he said.
Trojans need a victory
Tonight is the night all of southwest Minnesota’s prep football teams are in action. Other matchups have New Ulm (2-5) at Worthington (0-7), Waseca (6-1) at Luverne (4-3), Windom Area (0-7) at Pipestone Area (5-2), Red Rock Central (4-3) at Heron Lake-Okabena/Fulda (0-7), Edgerton (4-3) at Hills-Beaver Creek (5-2), Westbrook-Walnut Grove (1-6) at Cedar Mountain (5-2) and Mountain Lake Area (5-2) at Nicollet (2-5).
The Worthington Trojans have one final chance to get a regular season victory, and New Ulm presents them with a realistic chance.
It won’t be easy for the red and black, however. New Ulm is coming off a 35-28 triumph over Belle Plaine and also owns a 42-32 victory over Luverne.
WHS head coach Geno Lais is putting it all on his players.
“You gotta want to come out and win it,” he said on Monday.
He believes the team is enthused. It’s Seniors Night, and all of the Trojans know what they need to do.
Lais said the Trojans will attempt to play a balanced contest between the run and the pass, but they’ve got to get off to a better start than they did on Friday in a 47-0 loss in Waseca. In that game, the Bluejays scored a touchdown on the opening kickoff.
Starting well will be key. The team has found, Lais said, that starting well sets a positive tone for an entire game, and starting poorly sets the opposite tone.
“It’s kind of been a weekly thing to get some consistency,” he said.