Football: Red Wing, New Prague look for first win
When the first whistle blows Friday night in New Prague, both the home team and the visitors will be looking for win No. 1 of the 2013 season. But exactly which team will leave the field victorious — and which will ensure a road playoff game — is a matter very much up in the air.
Red Wing will enter Friday’s Missota Conference matchup coming off a 38-0 loss to Northfield, a game that was suspended for nearly 30 minutes due to lightning.
New Prague is coming off a 31-0 loss to Shakopee.
Both teams are coming off of back-to-back shutouts, as well as a four-game stretches where neither has scored more than a combined 20 points.
That should make for a very competitive, very tough game, as both teams vie to climb out of the Missota basement.
But the fire needed to come out with a win could have already been doused by the cold reality of being winless nearly two months into the season.
“You’d hope (we’re motivated),” said Red Wing head coach Matt Schultz. “That’s one of the hard things about losing, is it’s tough to keep everybody motivated. A lot of teams that are struggling this late in the year, it’s easy to mail it in, just show up for the last few weeks and call it good. The challenge for us is trying to find a way to keep them motivated and to want to win. This week, we’re both 0-6, and hopefully we can be hungrier than they are.”
Last week, Schultz and his staff made several changes in personnel and formations. The most noticeable change was at quarterback, where Isaac Toivonen moved to wide receiver to make room for Tait Kelly.
But the biggest impact may have been on the other side of the ball.
“Defensively, we made a wholesale change to a different defense,” Schultz said. “I think three days of practice in it (before last week’s game), and, now, another week of practice in it, we’ll see if the guys pick it up.
“I think our intensity was a little bit different last week, defensively. I felt like we had guys in a better position.”
To get players in a position to make plays, Schultz had to come up with the new system because the old system relied on the kind of athlete that simply was not available to the Wingers’ coaches.
“We don’t have the luxury of saying, ‘This is the system we’re going to run, and we’re going to fit guys into the system we’re going to run.’ We don’t have the luxury, we’ve got guys. Whatever guys show up, we’ve got to figure out a way to put him in a position to be successful,” Schultz said.
That defense will be tested by yet another spread offense, something the Trojans have used in place of their more-familiar wing-T of the past.
But no matter what the defense does, the offense will have to figure things out in a hurry.
“We’re getting there defensively, but offensively, we’ve got to figure out a way to run the ball and hope it opens up some things,” Schultz said.
To do so, Kelly and his receivers will have to make some plays on a defense that give up 36.3 points per game. If not, it could be another case of Red Wing’s youth building for something down the line.
“I think I started eight sophomores on Friday night (against Northfield). And not that they‘re no good sophomores, they’re very good football players, it’s no question. They work as hard as anyone I’ve got. We don’t play a lot of teams that have sophomores even suited up on the varsity sideline. I know those are terrible excuses. We just have to get better,” Schultz said.
Friday’s game in New Prague is scheduled for a 7 p.m. kickoff. Next week’s game, the final one of the regular season, is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday at Red Wing High School against Chanhassen.