PREP FOOTBALL: State berths on the line today for area teams

MARSHALL -- In the past, Red Rock Central has had problems with physical teams that run the ball. Head coach Isaac Jenniges knows that has to change. Playing against Adrian in today's Section 3A finals, the Falcon football team has to find a way ...

MARSHALL -- In the past, Red Rock Central has had problems with physical teams that run the ball.

Head coach Isaac Jenniges knows that has to change.

Playing against Adrian in today's Section 3A finals, the Falcon football team has to find a way to contain the Dragon's running game.

"I think you just have to come out and be physical," Jenniges said. "We've had a little bit of trouble with good teams that like to run the ball that out-size us upfront. We've done a pretty good job overall of stepping up and making stops when it counts. I think we have to make sure we're aware of what they're doing. They like to use a lot of different formations to try to confuse you a little bit. We have to recognize what they're putting out there and get our guys in the right spot and do what we can to stop them."

Adrian (8-2), meanwhile, will try to control the line of scrimmage and run the football in today's game, which begins at 2:30 p.m. at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall.


"We like trying to win the line of scrimmage and those battles on the line," Adrian head coach Randy Strand said. "We hope to win enough of them so we can win the war. Basically, we're going to try to hold our own on the line, offensively and defensively. We always go with the philosophy that we need to stop the run. We're not going to do anything fancy, we're just going to play head-up football and give it our best shot.

"We run, run, pass, punt and hopefully avoid the last two if we can."

A year ago, the Dragons advanced past Murray County Central in the section final to punch their ticket to state.

Adrian marched through the state tournament before falling in the championship game to Minneota. Despite losing a quality group of seniors last year, the Dragons returned as good as ever.

"We lost 13 real good seniors for us last year that gave us a lot of good football years," Strand said.

"With those guys, we also had some juniors and some sophomores and freshmen that played pretty big for us last year to get us where we were. They got a little bit of experience. These are kids that come through our program and they fit into what we do real well. They enjoy playing football and I think that's a plus for us. They like doing what we do best and that's play football."

Adrian is coming off two big victories. In the first round, the Dragons defeated Southwestern United 48-16 before downing Fulda 48-7 last Saturday.

But the second-seeded Falcons (7-3) provide a new challenge for the Adrian defense.


"They are a pretty balanced outfit," Strand said. "I think in the first round of playoffs, they rushed for 400 yards and their second round against Wabasso, they threw for 300 yards. Obviously, they have enough weapons to get the job done."

RRC beat MCC 39-12 in the first round and survived with a wild 26-20 win against Wabasso in the semifinals. The Falcons were able to win each game in a different way.

"That's one thing we really have going for us is our balance," Jenniges said. "The first night of the playoffs, Daniel (Maras) ran 37 times. On Saturday, Dylan (Bunting) threw it 35 times. If we're clicking on our passing game, teams have had to back off and worry about that, which opens up some of those running lanes."

While RRC has made the section finals for the first time since 2001, Jenniges said his team isn't feeling any pressure against the top-seeded Dragons.

"Can you feel any pressure when you're the lower seed?" the coach asked. "Last week it was a little more pressure-packed. It was a big-time rival with Wabasso right up the road. A lot of those guys are teammates in the winter on the wrestling team.

"Coming into (today), we don't have anything to lose. There aren't probably many people in the area or in the state that think we're going to come out on top. We have to go out and give it everything we got and leave it all on the field. We'll see what happens."

The winner of today's game will advance to the state tournament, where it will face the Section 1 champions at 8 p.m. Nov. 12 at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall.

"I think anytime you can get your team to state, you have to feel real good about it," Strand said about the possibility of returning to state. "That's why we strap them up at the beginning of the year. This group has just been waiting for the section to get here. We played a very tough conference, but we finally got through that and now it's like, 'Now it's time to play, and play it for everything you're worth.' They're excited about it and we're excited we've put ourselves in that position so we have that opportunity."


JCC vs. Luverne

Jackson County Central and Luverne know each other well.

And, they should.

The Cardinals, who are seeded No. 2 in Section 3AA, face off against the top-seeded Huskies with a spot at state on the line.

Game time is slated for 7:30 p.m. tonight at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall.

"We're just happy with us right now," JCC head coach Tom Schuller said. "These kids have worked really hard in the weightroom. As freshmen, our seniors won one game. They've worked their tail off. We told them it doesn't guarantee them a win, but it sure gives them a right to. The leadership has been outstanding on this team and we're where we wanted to be, so now we have to produce."

The Huskies have only been defeated once this season -- a 10-9 loss at the hands of Luverne on Sept. 17. But Luverne head coach Todd Oye doesn't expect that game to play a factor into this one.

"I don't think it matter one way or the other," Oye said. "We play each other enough in the regular season that we know what to expect out of the other team. We know their personnel and they know our personnel, so it will come down to a game of execution."


Schuller doesn't think his team will be worried about that game, either.

"Every game is a new game," Schuller said. "Just the prize of winning the section is enough, we don't have to think about any revenge. We have to worry about some things that we didn't do so well and we're going to have to do them better."

Since then, JCC has won seven consecutive games.

In that span, the Huskies (9-1) have outscored their opponents 260-36. In the first round of the section playoffs, JCC earned a 48-0 win against St. James, before downing Windom 42-0 last Saturday for the Huskies' fourth consecutive shutout.

"We'll have to rely on one of two things, either we'll have to play well or get lucky," Oye said. "We'd rather play well, so we'll take things one down at a time and see what we can do."

While the JCC defense has been playing well, so has the offense.

"I think that goes hand-in-hand with the offense," Schuller said. "When you're running the ball as well as we have been lately, it also controls the clock."

Luverne started this season 6-0 before Harrisburg (S.D.) handed the Cardinals a 33-21 defeat. The next week, Marshall earned a 15-13 win, sending Luverne to its second consecutive loss to end the regular season.


But since the playoffs have started, the Cardinals have stepped up their play. Winning 22-7 against Pipestone Area in the opening round and following with a 42-6 win against Tracy-Milroy-Balaton, Luverne is rolling coming into tonight's game.

Both teams enter the game with a few injuries, but that's to be expected at this point in the season.

"You have kids playing with bumps and bruises and some kids are out and you don't know until game time what's going to happen," Oye said. "That's part of the game. That's why you have 40-some guys on the team."

JCC has also felt the injury bug, but has had improved performances by Carsen Nyborg, Jordan Phibbs and Colton Ward in the running game.

The two teams have made a habit of meeting in the section finals, with this year marking the third time in the past four years the teams have met with a state berth on the line.

Luverne has won each of the past two times, most recently on a last-minute touchdown to secure a 21-17 victory a year ago.

In fact, in the past five years, the teams have played seven previous times. Luverne currently holds a 5-2 advantage, with JCC's victories coming in 2006 (48-28) and a 20-7 victory in the regular season a year ago.

The Cardinals returned a good group of players from a season ago, but will still have new faces in the lineup as they search for their fifth consecutive state berth.


The winner of today's game will face the Section 1 champion at 7 p.m. on Nov. 12 at Rochester.

"It doesn't get old, we're excited to play," Oye said. "Some of the younger kids that are playing talked about when they were in middle school was the first few times we went to the Metrodome. They want to work and get to that state tournament. They know Jackson County Central is a very talented team and we have our work cut out for us. But we're excited to play."

E/E vs. Wheaton

Combined, the two teams are 20-0.

They average more than 90 points per game and allow 20.

But when Edgerton/Ellsworth and Wheaton meet today, only one team can represent Section 3 9-man at the state tournament.

Today's game, which begins at 12:30 p.m. at the Fargodome, will decide who advances to the state tournament.

The winner will face the Section 1 champion at 5 p.m. on Nov. 12 at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall.

Wheaton enters today's game with a spotless 10-0 record and a No. 6 ranking in the state.

The Warriors average 39 points per game and allow a miniscule 8.3 points per contest.

On the other hand, Edgerton/Ellsworth also has a perfect 10-0 record and a No. 3 ranking in the state.

The Flying Dutchmen allow 12.2 points per contest and score 51.4 points per game -- the top average in the state.

Despite big numbers, E/E didn't have an easy road to today's game.

After downing Hancock 52-14 in the first round, the Flying Dutchmen had their hands full against Hills-Beaver Creek.

The Patriots held a lead in the fourth quarter, but E/E was able to rally for a 20-14 victory.

Wheaton, meanwhile, was also tested.

The Warriors dominated Lincoln HI 64-0 in the first round, but edged Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley 28-12 to punch their ticket into today's game.

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