Football: Red Wing looks for new life in sectionsThe tide might finally be turning for Red Wing. The Wingers were beat up by their conference schedule, losing more than 13 starters for at least a game without winning a conference matchup. But a few crucial pieces are returning for playoffs.
By: Chris Harrell, The Republican Eagle
The tide might finally be turning for Red Wing.
The Wingers were beat up by their conference schedule, losing more than 13 starters for at least a game without winning a conference matchup. But a few crucial pieces are returning for playoffs.
“Hopefully the competition we play every week is preparing us to play well in the section,” Red Wing head coach Matt Schultz said. “For our guys, it’s more about getting everybody on the field. We haven’t been healthy since the first quarter against Shakopee (Sept. 7).”
Starting quarterback Isaac Toivonen, starting middle linebacker Chris Holm and starting tailback/wide receiver Andre Page will come back for the first week of playoffs.
“We’re starting to get guys back and this is the time we need guys back,” Schultz said. “We’re coming back together a little bit at the end of the year. It’s huge.”
Toivonen is recovering from a double ankle sprain, Holm is playing on a partially-torn medial collateral ligament in his knee, and Page is dealing with an injury to his hand. Page will play offense and defense Tuesday, Schultz said.
Page and the rest of Red Wing’s secondary helped shut down Chanhassen’s top receiver Jared Lea in last week’s 28-0 loss, keeping him out of the end zone after Lea led the Storm with 10 touchdown receptions entering the game.
“It’s a good week to be thinking about how well our secondary played,” Schultz said. “It’s a good time for those six guys to be playing that well.”
The sixth-seeded Wingers (1-7, 0-6 Missota) take on Byron at 7 p.m. Tuesday as the last seed in Section 1AAAA. The third-seeded Bears (5-3, 3-3 HVL Blue) showcase a talented senior quarterback in Jack Nelson, who led the Hiawatha Valley League with 1,694 yards passing and 18 passing touchdowns. He also ran for 503 yards and seven touchdowns.
“He has most of their scores,” Schultz said. “It’s going to be interesting to see what the speed of the game is like.”
Thor Knutson is Nelson’s favorite target; he accounted for 41 receptions for 720 yards and nine touchdowns. But he isn’t the only threat Red Wing will need to stop as three others receivers have at least three touchdown catches for Byron.
But the differences between the two team’s conferences make it difficult to know how Tuesday’s game will go, Schultz said.
“Our schedules are completely different,” he said. “It’s impossible to compare the schools that are in our section together. … We’re a Missota Conference team. Our conference is really up this year. We kind of took our lumps but I thought we competed pretty well. We struggled with some and we competed with others.
“The hard thing about that is we’ve learned a lot as the year’s gone on,” Schultz added. “You look at our defense, we’ve improved significantly. We gave up 22 against Austin. I’d be remised to say that we wouldn’t give up a lot less to that squad. The (Missota Conference) is hard on our kids, but we got a lot better from Week 1 to Week 8 and that’s what I’m looking for.”
Red Wing will need to resuscitate a limp offense to pull off the upset, and Schultz hopes the return of Page and Toivonen will be the answer. Page and Toivonen are first and second for the Wingers in total yards, respectively.
“That combination opens up a lot of things we can do,” Schultz said. “We’re also very tall at wide receiver, which is going to be a very nice advantage. And Andre runs a 4.4, so that’s probably going to be new for the teams they face in their conference. Andre’s a pretty special kid if he has the type of game he can have. … It’s going to be an interesting week.”