Pride on the line for rivals
Flooding and Zumbrota-Mazeppa's football team put a damper on Goodhue's homecoming a year ago. This week, the Wildcats have a chance to get even.
"They were our homecoming game last year," Goodhue senior lineman Kyle Diercks said. "They beat us. We might as well return the favor."
The game was played on a Saturday afternoon because of severe rains and the Cougars left with a 32-14 victory. The Wildcats came out flat and could not find a rhythm, Diercks said.
"It wasn't good," Goodhue senior quarterback Brandon Dowden said.
On Friday, the Wildcats (4-0, 2-0 HVL Gold) take their undefeated record down Highway 58 to face the Cougars (2-2, 2-0 HVL Gold) on their homecoming. With both teams unbeaten in conference and a rivalry separated by nine miles, Z-M coach Willie Rauen expects a packed house come game time.
"It's a big game in our gold division to stay on top," Rauen said. "I told the guys that this should probably be the best regular season atmosphere they've played in."
"I love that it's their homecoming," Goodhue coach Tony Poncelet said. "I hate when it's ours."
The long rivalry between the towns is not a bitter one, but one bred through numerous connections. Cougars' senior quarterback Zach VanOstrand used to play basketball and baseball with the Wildcats' players and Z-M's defensive coordinator Darin Raasch graduated from Goodhue, where he coached until 2006. Players from both teams are excited to face their neighboring city.
"For us it's always been a good rivalry," Wildcats' senior running back Alex Brunholzl said. "It's never angry or anything."
The Cougars know in order to leave the field happy against Goodhue for the third year in a row they will need to find a way to stop the Wildcats' two-headed monster of senior running backs Jeremy Schrimpf and Brunholzl. The tandem has combined for 1,040 yards rushing and 19 total touchdowns in the first four games. Both also had success in a pre-season scrimmage against Z-M. Rauen said the two are probably the best running backs in the area.
"We have to execute where we need to be," VanOstrand said. "We've got to make sure to contain them and make them cut back into the middle of our defense."
"We need to make good tackles," Cougars' senior wide receiver and cornerback Kyle Forrey said. "We need to make sure we hit them hard. We have to get bodies to the ball."
VanOstrand and Forrey have also found success this year. Playing together since seventh grade, their chemistry is a main reason the Wildcats are keying to stop them.
Two weeks ago, VanOstrand racked up five total touchdowns, two rushing and three passing, in a win over Kenyon-Wanamingo.
"Their whole team runs through him," Diercks said of VanOstrand.
"We'll have to stop him with gang tackling," Poncelet said. "He's really quick."
Forrey, a 6 foot, 2 inch receiver, had three receiving touchdowns in the first three games and creates a match-up problem for Goodhue's cornerbacks.
"(In the pre-season scrimmage) all they scored on was the play-action passes where they threw it up and the guy was taller than our corner," Dowden said. "Our defense has to be ready for that. Not to get sucked up by the play-action."
Both teams will look to slow down each other's strengths while sticking to the usual game plan. Don't expect a reinvention of the wheel.
"We would like to attack their perimeter players," VanOstrand said. "We have a size advantage over them."
"We've got to hit them with our running game," Dowden said. "Their defensive line is down quite a bit from last year."
With a highly anticipated game against the second-ranked Wildcats, the Cougars are accepting the added pressure.
"There is a little more pressure because everyone will be there," VanOstrand said. "It's a little harder to focus with homecoming, but at the same time, it's more fun because we know everyone is coming to the game."
"It motivates you to play harder," Forrey said.
Game time is 7 p.m. at Zumbrota-Mazeppa High School.