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MCC's new angle is winning

SLAYTON -- So far, Murray County Central's new angle blocking schemes are working. Of course, it also helps that the Rebels are blessed with many good athletes -- albeit perhaps a little undersized. On Friday, MCC rushed for 361 yards for a 34-14...

SLAYTON -- So far, Murray County Central’s new angle blocking schemes are working.

Of course, it also helps that the Rebels are blessed with many good athletes -- albeit perhaps a little undersized.

On Friday, MCC rushed for 361 yards for a 34-14 high school football victory over Ortonville which improved coach Patrick Freeman’s squad to 3-0 on the 2016 campaign. Murray County Central, which struggled to a 2-7 record in 2015 and hasn’t had a winning season since 2009, is rolling up the yardage, making stops on defense, and forcing opponents to sit up and take notice.

So how are they doing it?

“I think one of the biggest things is believing in what we’re doing,” said Freeman. “We don’t have a lot of big kids, but we’ve got tough kids. And we teach our kids to angle block.”

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Experience matters. There 13 seniors on the 35-man MCC squad.

“And they’re just taking big steps from last year to this year,” Freeman said.

In his third year of heading the MCC football program, Freeman met with his coaches before the 2016 season began and discussed how some other successful high school football teams handle blocking duties. Part of the Rebels’ difficulties in the past, Freeman thought, were tied into the idea that they thought they had to push defenders out of the way in order to move the football. But programs like Minneota and Becker are more nuanced in their blocking approaches. So the Rebels adopted angle blocking techniques.

“It’s more of a process where we’re working on our footwork. Because we’ve got some quick kids, and it’s about just getting a shoulder,” Freeman explained.

MCC opened the season with a 27-14 win over Springfield and followed that up with a 27-0 triumph over Tracy-Milroy-Balaton -- two teams the Rebels lost to last season. On Friday, the Rebs gained their 361 rushing yards on 65 carries, with Zach Aanenson gaining 97 on 24 totes and Cole Bassett gaining 95 on 10. Kellan Johnson rushed seven times for 41 yards.

The Rebels also passed for 93 yards and held Ortonville to 288 total net yards (229 by the air).

Bassett is a 5-10, 175-pound senior, an exceptional all-around athlete with outstanding vision. Aanenson is a 5-10, 180-pound junior tailback who Freeman describes as a “tough runner” who runs low to the ground. Ethan Swanson, who carried five times for 56 yards against Ortonville, is a 5-11, 160-pound sophomore who the coach says is “tremendously fast.” Johnson, a senior wing back, is more of a receiving threat.

The Rebels operate their offense out of a hybrid wing-T. They do a lot of pulling, and their goal is just to get a shoulder on would-be tacklers and let their running backs make quick reads and quick decisions.

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Freeman says MCC doesn’t generate a lot of breakaway runs. “We’re not averaging a lot of yards yet, but we just keep grinding,” he said.

Murray County Central’s defense has also been strong this year, with the first-team defense having given up only one score in three games. Seniors Matt McNab (defensive end) and Mason Whitehead (linebacker) have been the stalwarts.

Of their 35 rostered players, the Rebels -- who face the toughest part of their schedule this week (Adrian, 2-1) and next (Minneota, 3-0) have only five juniors. But the junior high numbers have been good and Freeman hopes the team’s core philosophy -- which stresses togetherness and family -- will help the program achieve healthy numbers in future years.

Related Topics: FOOTBALL
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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