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Football: Wingers aim to snap skid against Shakopee

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It’s been six years since the Red Wing high School football team beat Shakopee. Since then, the Wingers are 0-5 against the Sabers, and few of the games have been particularly close.

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Last year, the Wingers lost 30-6, but did play to a 14-7 defeat in 2011. The previous three seasons saw Red Wing fall by a combined score of 106-32, including a shutout loss in 2010.

But the one thing you can count on in high school sports is turnover. Most on these two rosters were not playing varsity football two years ago, and none participated in 2007, when the Wingers won 13-7. 

So while history can be a good teacher, it’s got nothing on the present.

Gone is Shakopee quarterback Nick Larson, who threw for 86 yards on 4 of 5 passing last year. Also gone is running back Mykal Riley, who rushed for 128 yards and a touchdown in 2012. But perhaps most importantly, Patrick Casey also graduated, which is good news for a Red Wing offense that saw Casey in on 20 tackles in 2012.

“My guess is they start over just about every year because I think the first year we were there, they had 57 seniors, and it was Senior Night,” Red Wing coach Matt Schultz said. “We had nine (seniors) that year.”

The Wingers will have more than double those nine seniors this year, but it’s the team as a whole that needs to take another step forward. The Wingers are coming off a 31-0 Border Battle loss to Ellsworth, a game in which the Panthers posted 301 rushing yards.

But the defense didn’t get much help, something Schultz hopes to see turn around against the Sabers.

“I think there’s plenty of blame to go around for what happened on Friday night. I think everybody will get better each week. Our young guys will get better, and our old guys will calm down and we’ll be a different football team Friday night,” Schultz said.

What the Wingers can expect to see won’t be much different than what they saw in Wisconsin last week: namely, a good defense and an offense that likes to plod the ball down the field.

“They run a little different style defense, but they’re an aggressive, strong, run-game dominated team, just like the one we played on Friday,” Schultz said.

Except this week, there will be a large group of Wingers who won’t have the added pressure of playing in their first varsity game.

“We’re still fairly young,” Schultz said. “My offensive line, I think I’ve got one guy that saw significant varsity time last year. The rest of them played on the B-squad team. So last week was their first varsity, this-game-matters experience. My wide receivers, my tail back, who didn’t take a rep last year as a running back, one offensive lineman, and (quarterback) Isaac (Toivonen), who played, I think, five games last year.”

With two home games coming up, the time is now for the Wingers to take that first step forward. Whether or not Red Wing can grab a victory Friday night in Shakopee is almost beside the point.

“We need to improve, each week we need to get better,” Schultz said. “Our offensive line needs to figure out who they’re blocking each time. Now we’ll see a new defensive front this week, which will be different from last week, a step where they go, ‘Oh, yeah, I can identify what’s going on in front of me,’ and go to the right guy. Our receivers need to catch the ball when it hits them in the hands, that’s another step. And then we need to put the ball in their hands more often. 

“Defensively, we looked pretty good for the first quarter and-a-half of the game. I think, if offensively, we could have got the defense off the field in the first half, I think the defense would not have been so tired and we probably would have done a little bit better later in that game.

“And I need to call better plays.”

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Kyle Stevens
Kyle Stevens is a sports reporter for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, Kyle worked at the Owatonna People’s Press, as well as KWLM and KLFN in Willmar. You can contact Kyle by phone at (651) 301-7879, via e-mail at kstevens@republican-eagle.com, and follow him on Twitter @RE_KStevens.
(651) 301-7879
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