Football: Wingers look to regroup in 2nd half of season
The second half of the high school football season begins Friday, and for Red Wing, that means a date with the Academy of Holy Angels.
“Their pretty athletic and their skill positions are pretty good again, just like last year. Their quarterback can move pretty well, and they have good athletes all over,” said Red Wing head coach Matt Schultz.
The Stars (1-3 overall, 1-2 Missota) feature signal-caller Anthony Eckholm and running back Connor Moriarty. Against New Prague, Eckholm totaled 367 yards of total offense, 225 of which came through the air. Eckholm also rushed for 142 yards and two touchdowns, adding two more scores in the passing game.
Schultz said the Wingers (0-4, 0-3) won’t stack the box against Eckholm and Moriarty (5.3 yards per rush), saying the key defensively is to just do what the coaches ask.
“I don’t think we pack it in,” Schultz said. “The secret for us is team defense. Our linebackers have to trust each other, our safeties have to trust each other. We can’t do each others’ job. That’s hard to do if you don’t have success early. You can do too much and you get out of control like it was Friday [in a 67-13 loss to Chaska]. We have to play as a unit. We have to play our positions. If we do that, we saw it Friday, we can make plays.”
Last week, against Shakopee, the Stars scored the game’s first touchdown. But after that, Holy Angels gave up 25 straight points, losing 25-7. Much of Shakopee’s damage came on the ground, something that Schultz would like to see the Wingers accomplish as well.
“We need first downs, and we need to get inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. We need to get in the red zone and see if we can score from there,” Schultz said. “We have to get an attitude up front that we need to move guys and that we need to push. And, hopefully, that comes from running the ball.”
Connor McCarthy will be the player to watch defensively for the Stars. McCarthy leads Holy Angels in tackles, by a large margin, and wears a number usually associated with stellar linebackers at AHA.
“He’s kind of their stud. Most years, No. 33 is a great defensive player. I don’t know if it’s a tradition with them, but that’s the number to look for. On film, he’s very good. And they have a lot of good football players,” Schultz said.
Defensively, the Wingers will have to contain a very good rushing attack, all while keeping Eckholm in check through the air. To do so, Red Wing will have to play without thinking.
“We can’t be afraid to fail, afraid to screw up,” Schultz said. “That’s how you get better, if you’re tentative, you won’t make the play. You can’t be afraid to make a mistake. A mistake at full speed is better than no decision at all, which is what it looked like (last) Friday. We didn’t think we were good enough to make a play.”
After two games where the Wingers played halves that may have surprised neutral observers, the blowout loss to Chaska kind of hit the reset button on Red Wing’s season.
Schultz wants to see his team forget last week, and instead focus on what worked in a good second half against Shakopee, and a stellar first half against Farmington.
“Hopefully each week, the game slows down a little bit for everybody. Against Ellsworth, things were too fast. Against Shakopee, it was a fast first half, and then things slowed down,” Schultz said. “Against Farmington, the first half was slowed down and we did some things. Then the second half happened. And then Chaska happened. But the guys have to put that behind them because that’s one of the best 5A football teams in the state for a reason.”
Friday’s game will kickoff at 7 p.m. from Richfield.