MW poised to stop Ridgewater running game

WORTHINGTON -- If today's game is anything like the last two games for the Minnesota West football team, the game won't be decided until the final play.

WORTHINGTON -- If today's game is anything like the last two games for the Minnesota West football team, the game won't be decided until the final play.

"We make it exciting," MW head coach Jeff Linder said. "It's giving me grey hair."

The Bluejays (4-1) had a 26-7 lead against Northland last week, but couldn't hang on.

"They came back with just over two minutes left and you have to say a lot for the kids because they kept their composure and went out there and went right down and scored," Linder said. "It would have been easy to have a 26-7 lead and watch it crumble away and then just crumble and fall apart. But they didn't. They stayed together and kept working towards the win."

The week before, in a 30-23 victory against Mesabi Range, the Norsemen had the ball deep inside Bluejay territory as time expired.


Today's game at Ridgewater will mark the first Southern Division contest for the Bluejays this season.

"Starting a week ago we've been telling the guys that each game from Northland on out is a playoff game," Linder said. "We have to be mentally focused and physically prepared for each and every contest to make sure we put ourselves in a position to be in the hunt at the end of the season."

With a 4-1 record, the Bluejays have the second-best record in the division, but since they haven't played a conference game yet, are sitting in third.

"We hold our destiny in our own hands," Linder said. "We need to go out and perform, and we've shown that we can do that. So there's no pressure. It's just going to be a tough contest."

There is no secret what Ridgewater (4-1, 1-0) will try to do today.

Running back Alex McLaughlin has rushed for 1,090 yards this season (218 yards per game).

"Their main offensive threat, and they've shown it each and every week, is No. 32," Linder said. "We have to make sure that we deal with that threat first, and then if things change, we'll adjust accordingly."

In five games this season McLaughlin has ran for more than 200 yards in four of those games.


"We'll just try to show different defensive fronts and different defensive blitz packages to keep their offensive line at bay and keep them away from our second level," Linder said. "If we can keep them guessing and keep moving people around where they can't get comfortable in any kind of blocking scheme, then we'll have the advantage.

"He has some speed, but he's also a big back. It's not like we're going to hit him and knock him off his feet. We're going to have to get everybody there and get some help. We're going to have to make sure we contain the run."

While the Ridgewater attack is run-heavy, MW will bring a more balanced scheme to today's game.

MW has thrown for 867 yards and ran for 753 yards so far this season, while the Warriors have ran for 1,473 and passed for 369 yards.

"We're going to have to be able to control the line of scrimmage, we're going to have to be able to run the ball, we're going to have to control the clock and keep their offense off the field," Linder said. "Those are things that we always try to do. There's no secret; I've had that offensive philosophy since I've been here. We still need to throw the ball, but in a controlled manner."

Game time is slated for 6 p.m. in Willmar.

"We should all be awake and ready to go," Linder said. "Even though we're traveling, it's not really anything compared to how far we've traveled. We're going to leave early enough so we can get up there and unwind a little bit before we have to crank it up."

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