WORTHINGTON -- Do not fear, Worthington High School football fans. The team has had rough starts before, and Head Coach Geno Lais isn’t worried -- and neither are his players.
“I’m always pretty optimistic. And I think our guys are pretty optimistic, too,” Lais said on Monday. “I think they realize that we’re our toughest opponent sometimes. From talking to the guys, we’re pretty confident that we’ll bounce back and have a good season.”
Only two games have been played thus far in the 2021 fall campaign, so it’s far too early to throw in the towel. And despite the fact that Worthington lost its opener at home 41-14 to Jordan, then fell on the road last Friday 57-20 to Pipestone Area, there really were some good things that happened.
First off, Jordan is a very good team, and give the Hubmen credit for setting up the Trojans for some big scoring plays. The Trojans can be faulted for making mental mistakes that cost them, but right from the outset they showed a willingness to go toe to toe with their opponents and that they’ve got a few athletes who can make a difference.
Game Two, in Pipestone, again was mostly bad for the Trojans. The Arrows scored early and often and quickly put the game out of reach. It was an odd game that treated fans to events not normally seen in high school football.
Was the result an aberration? The Trojans still have a chance to prove that it was.
One thing that happened in the Pipestone Area game deserves to be re-visited. In the second half, freshman WHS running back Jacari Swinea pulled off a 62-yard would-be touchdown run that was erased via penalty. That, in itself, is not particularly remarkable, but what is certainly remarkable is that on the very next play he ran 75 yards for a touchdown that counted.
What’s the deal with this young Swinea kid?
“He’s pretty fast. He’s learned a lot in just a couple of weeks,” said Lais. “One thing that makes him special is his vision, his ability to see the hole. And he’s learning to set up his blockers and be patient. Once he’s through the line, he’s gone. And you can’t just arm-tackle him.”
Another noteworthy event occurred Friday when junior Evan Neuberger returned a kick for a touchdown. Neuberger, better known as a wrestler, is competing in his first year of football. “He’s a good athlete. He’s a strong kid. And he’s deceptively fast,” Lais said.
The Trojans have a stable of running backs that Lais is proud of. Senior Drew Dorsey, who started the Jordan game but was unable to play against Pipestone Area, is a straight-ahead power runner. So is a third back, 300-pound junior Anthony Linder, who’s being used both as a lead blocker and as a runner. He is a solid athlete, is deceptively fast, and can move defenders backward.
Worthington’s strength this year was expected to be its experienced offensive line, and so far it has been spotty.
“I think we did a pretty decent job against Jordan. Pipestone, we had multiple offensive breakdowns. They’re a veteran group. Those mistakes shouldn’t happen any more,” said the coach.
Another area that hurt the Trojans against the Arrows was special teams play. There were simply too many big plays given up there.
Lais is also looking for more consistency in the passing game where he’s got a solid athlete with a good arm in senior Jake Brandner. With more time to throw and with receivers who are still developing, better things may yet materialize.
Coach Lais said the Trojans still need to learn to control what they’re able to control and to “not worry about other things.” It’s a work in progress.
As for this Friday’s opponent, St. Peter, it’s another road test.
“They’re always a good football team,” Lais said about the Saints, who fell to 0-2 last week with a 36-16 loss to Fairmont. “They did a lot of good things against Fairmont, and Fairmont is a good team. They threw the ball against Fairmont more than I expected.
“I think they’re kind of a similar football team to us. They’re a pretty good football team; they just haven’t gotten a win yet. And they’re looking for their first win, too.”