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Prep football: E-E's precision on display in Fulda

FULDA -- Like the inner workings of a precision instrument, the gears of the Edgerton/Ellsworth high school football team click together with apparent effortlessness.

FULDA -- Like the inner workings of a precision instrument, the gears of the Edgerton/Ellsworth high school football team click together with apparent effortlessness.

Like a giant one-celled organism, the Flying Dutchman offense has many parts but one mind. It sends fingers out its left side, or its right, or straight ahead and it cannot be separated from itself.

Or maybe not. Maybe it’s just a very good team, and practice makes almost perfect.

The Dutchmen improved to 4-0 on the 2016 grid campaign Saturday night in Fulda with their 56-6 victory, rolling up a 46-0 halftime lead. The Dutch have outscored opponents 222-31 in the four games, and against the Raiders their offense looked as smooth as a high school offense can look.

The snaps were crisp, junior quarterback Landon Buckridge’s footwork was nifty, his hand-offs to the team’s many fine backs were deft. The blocking up front was coordinated and effective. Just to keep the defense honest, there was an occasional pass. Some of them connected, too.

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If E/E appeared strangely similar to a well-oiled machine in the first half of Saturday’s game, it might simply be because the Dutchmen practice very hard to get it as good as they can.

“All week long we go over and over our plays,” said senior Mason Sluis. “During practice it’s 100 percent or you go on the scout team.”

Edgerton/Ellsworth head coach Andrew Fleischman never wavers from a philosophy that refuses to take anything for granted. It’s just one game at a time for him and the Dutch.

The offense was in gear against the Raiders, he said.

“The offense is similar with what we ran when we went to the state finals (in 2014). The added dimension we have this year, as opposed to before, is that Landon does such a good job running the option. And our fullback (senior 210-pounder Blake Van Dyke, last year’s 9-South District West defensive player of the year) is somebody teams have to account for,” Fleischman said.

“It’s just understanding responsibilities,” he continued. “The way we operate, we really don’t know what a team is going to try to do against us. But our kids know their responsibilities.”

That includes blocking. And on defense, it includes tackling.

One of Edgerton/Ellsworth’s many weapons, senior running back Mason Sluis, carried for a thousand yards last season. On Saturday, he intercepted a pass in the first quarter to set up the Dutchmen’s second score of the game, which he secured himself with a two-yard run.

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Sluis also scored a TD in the second quarter on a 25-yard pass from Buckridge over the middle.

Sluis is an even better player than he was last year, Fleischman intimated.

“As good as a runner, as good as a receiver he is, he does such a good job as a blocker. That’s the difference with him this year, he does such a good job as a blocker,” said his coach.

The Flying Dutchmen continue to do what they do best offensively, and that is run. In the first half against Fulda, the Dutch rushed unofficially for 250 yards and passed for another 105. Fulda, meanwhile, rushed for 21 yards and threw for 35.

Saturday’s game mostly showed off E/E’s machine-like efficiency. But it also highlighted what is a pretty good Fulda passing game led by senior quarterback Justin Dierks. Unfortunately for the Raiders, that aerial game wasn’t consistent Saturday in wet conditions. Rain began to fall on the Fulda field late in the first quarter, and early in the second quarter the game was delayed for 30 minutes due to lightning.

Fulda’s one first-half highlight was a nifty 43-yard run by 5-10, 190-pound senior fullback Brandon Everett. But one long pass from Dierks to a wide-open receiver -- that might have gone for a touchdown -- was dropped. Fulda was unable to make inroads into E/E’s big lead in the second half, partly due to slick field conditions and a wet football.

FHS head coach Greg Erdmann, however, gave credit to where credit was due.

“They are a very well-coached team,” he said about the Dutchmen. “They’re very disciplined. They’ve got the experience, they’ve got the heart. They’ve got it all.”

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He added, hopefully, “We’ve got some flashes of potential. We’re learning. We’re rebuilding. Last year we were 1-8. We’ve got the tools. We just gotta put it together yet.”

On Saturday night, Edgerton/Ellsworth scored on its very first possession when Jaden Bloemendaal carried into the end zone from 46 yards out. After Sluis tacked on his first score, Bloemendaal scored again on a 61-yard run on a fourth-and-two play.

Leading 24-0 at the end of the first quarter, E/E scored on the first play of the second quarter on a Van Dyke two-yard run. The next score was the 25-yard pass to Sluis.

Buckridge threw his second TD pass with 3:13 remaining until halftime when he found Trey Gilbertson open past the Fulda secondary over the middle. It covered 75 yards.

Next came a safety on a punt snap that sailed into the Fulda end zone. Then a Nick Paulsen eight-yard touchdown carry untouched through the middle of the FHS defense.

Fulda finally got on the scoreboard in the third quarter when senior halfback Jon Gehl went up the middle, veered left and outraced the Dutchmen secondary on a 95-yard run.

Another Edgerton/Ellsworth safety with 2:04 remaining in the fourth quarter closed the scoring.

Final totals showed Edgerton/Ellsworth rushing for 363 total yards on 52 carries, with 111 yards gained passing.

Saturday’s result evens Fulda’s record at 2-2.

E/E 24 22 8 2 -- 56

Fulda 0 0 6 0 -- 6

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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