Football: Cougars, Wildcats renew HVL rivalryIn its homecoming game, Goodhue looks for first win over Z-M since 2007
By: Joe Brown, The Republican Eagle
Trying to overcome injuries. Looking to break through the Hiawatha Valley League. Hoping to rebound after a tough double-digit loss last Friday.
HVL foes Zumbrota-Mazeppa and Goodhue are dealing with all three of these factors as the Cougars and Wildcats meet up on the field at 7 p.m. Friday in Goodhue.
“At this point, both teams are overcoming injuries,” said Wildcats head coach Tony Poncelet.
Cougars head coach Willie Rauen added, “It’s been kind of tough to make the adjustments, and we’re a little low on numbers from our junior and senior classes, and kids are playing some positions and roles for us they wouldn’t in any other year.”
Coming into Goodhue’s homecoming, Z-M (2-2, 2-0 HVL Gold) is looking to overcome a 54-7 thrashing from HVL powerhouse Kasson-Mantorville. Meanwhile, the Wildcats (2-2, 1-1 HVL Gold) are coming off a tough loss of their own after falling 44-14 to Triton last Friday.
As both teams try to break from the middle of the HVL Gold, Rauen believes it’ll come down to who controls the game between the Wildcats’ run-heavy offense and the Cougars’ balanced attack.
“It’s going to depend on whose style of game we play on Friday night,” Rauen said. “If we can get them into more pass situations, that should benefit us, but if they get the running game going, it’ll be beneficial to them.”
Through the first half of the season, Goodhue has tried to adjust for the loss of one of its top players in Tyson Dicke. With the 6-foot-4 senior receiver/defensive end out for the remainder of the year with a torn meniscus, Poncelet said “a committee” of players has stepped up to become playmakers in Dicke’s absence.
“Austin Buck and Alex Thomforde have been filling in for Tyson offensively,” Poncelet said. “We’ve also moved some guys around on defense. It’s kind of been a total team effort.”
Through the first three weeks of the season, the Wildcats’ rushing attack has been one of the HVL’s best, with running back Dillon Hueman leading the league with 464 rushing yards on 80 carries.
“They got a couple decent backs in Dillon and Kyle Drehmel,” Rauen said. “They’re not really big backs, but they run very hard and are good at what they do on offense.”
Meanwhile, the Cougars have battled through injuries and found a solid passing pair in quarterback Kurt Gadient and receiver Kevin Niebuhr. Niebuhr had 14 catches for 179 yards in three games, while Gadient had 325 yards passing.
“We’ve been able to have some nice running plays lately,” Rauen said. “We’re trying to get to 50-50 between passing and rushing if we can. It hasn’t gotten that way yet.”
Since 2008, Z-M has dominated the series, winning the last four meeting by a combined score of 143-66.
Last year’s contest was the closest in recent memory, with the Cougars sneaking by with an 18-16 victory.
In a rivalry game separated by eight-plus miles and with Goodhue hosting its homecoming, both teams are looking to make a statement in the second half of the regular season.
“Both teams really get up for the game,” Rauen said. “It’s a very well-played game. Both teams play the game the right way.”
Poncelet added, “This year, it’s this group of seniors’ homecoming. And whenever we play Zumbrota, we throw out the records.”