PREP FOOTBALL: Dragons ready for rematch
MINNEAPOLIS -- Things have come full circle for Adrian's football team. The Dragons will play their last game of the season against Little Sioux Conference foe Minneota, the same team they faced in Week 1. There is one big difference, though. Thi...
MINNEAPOLIS -- Things have come full circle for Adrian's football team.
The Dragons will play their last game of the season against Little Sioux Conference foe Minneota, the same team they faced in Week 1.
There is one big difference, though.
This Friday, it's for the state championship.
"It'd be great to start and end the season with Minneota," Adrian's quarterback Brett Nowotny said after the Dragons' 14-7 semifinal victory over Fosston.
That was before Minneota dropped Blooming Prairie 49-26 in the other Class A semifinal.
Now, Nowotny and the rest of the Dragons will get their chance to avenge a season-opening, 43-13 loss to the Vikings.
"We opened up the year with them, and they kind of handled us," Adrian's head coach Randy Strand said.
"It'd be nice to get another shot at them," Nowotny had said. "We're a better team now."
They'll need to be.
The undefeated Vikings (13-0) have dismantled their opponents by an average of more than 40 points per game this year.
They finished the regular season ranked No. 3 in Class A, and stormed through Barnesville (45-17) and Blooming Prairie to get to the state title game.
"They're a pretty good outfit, they had 10 starters back on offense and 10 on defense, so they're expected to be where they're at," Strand said. "We're kind of a surprise."
Adrian (11-2) has done things a little differently in the state tournament, going down to the wire in a 27-21 overtime victory over St. Bernard's and knocking off Fosston in the final minute last Friday.
Strand hopes to keep things that close in the title game.
It won't be easy, though, considering Adrian lost to Minneota by 30 earlier this year.
"They took advantage of some of our mismatches early," Strand said of the loss. "But we learned a few things from that game, so hopefully we've gotten better."
Wide receiver Kyle Kilgore might eliminate one mismatch for the Dragons.
Just a sophomore, Kilgore didn't even see the field the first time against Minneota.
Coaches started using the 6-foot-7 receiver in the second game to match up against taller athletes from Murray County Central.
He responded by catching five passes for 133 yards, and he's been creating mismatches ever since.
Kilgore snagged a crucial touchdown pass in both state tournament games so far, but he has also made his presence felt on defense -- providing an intimidating obstacle for opposing quarterbacks to throw around.
In fact, Strand thinks his entire defense has steadily improved throughout the year, which could be a big reason why Round 2 against Minneota could be a lot closer.
"Defensively, we've come a long way from that first game," Strand said. "We're giving up a few yards, but we're not giving up touchdowns. It's the big plays that get you in trouble.
"That's something you want to keep away from Minneota too," the coach added. "They rely on big plays."
The Dragons' defense has only allowed 6.8 points per game since giving up 43 to Minneota.
But the Vikings' attack features several weapons.
Going into the state tournament, quarterback Sam Derynck had thrown for 1,901 yards, 28 touchdowns and only six interceptions.
His top two targets have been Tony Noyes (43 receptions, 715 yards, seven TD's) and Will Kurka (32, 541, 13).
But the Vikings might even run the ball better than they throw it.
Halfback Brandon Anderson carried for 1,615 yards and 29 TDs in the regular season.
Noyes is also a running threat, tallying 515 yards and nine scores on the ground. Fullback Jacob Cheadle, meanwhile, is averaging better than a first down (10.3 yards-per-carry) every time he rushes the ball.
"You've got to be disciplined, because they use a lot of misdirection with their running backs," Strand said. "They're an awfully good football team."
Apparently, they're from an awfully good football conference, too.
Minneota and Adrian finished as two of the top four teams in the Little Sioux Conference. Dawson-Boyd and MACCRAY were the others, but Minneota defeated D-B in the Section 5A finals to advance to the state tournament.
Adrian, who came out of Section 3A, was lined up on the opposite side of the Class A bracket from Minneota.
The two schools will now square off in an all-Little Sioux state championship.
"It speaks for itself at this point when two teams come out of two different brackets and they both end up in the state finals," Strand said. "That's something about our conference. Throughout the season, if you're not prepared to play, you're going to take a bump."
It's helped the Dragons in the long run, according to Strand.
"That physicality is something that we've been able to bring to some of the teams we've run into along the way," the coach said.
Friday will be the second time in three years the Dragons have played for a state championship.
They were the state runners up in 2007, losing 28-7 to Goodhue.
The seniors on Adrian's squad were sophomores then, so they've been in a serious playoff run before.
"It certainly has got to help," Strand said. "We've been through the routine with travel and hotel stays and things like that. You feel a little bit more comfortable."
Kickoff for the Class A championship is slated for 1 p.m. at the Metrodome in Minneapolis.