Football: Tigers prep for showdown with top-ranked LourdesLake City looks for its first state appearance since 2001 when it plays Rochester Lourdes in the Section 1AAA championship Friday
By: Joe Brown, The Republican Eagle
No team in Class 3A has been as explosive offensively as Lake City. Heading into Friday’s Section 1AAA championship game, the Tigers led the state in points per game (45.1) and point differential (27.2).
But facing top-ranked Rochester Lourdes in the section final, Lake City head coach Trevor Narum is prepared for a long, grueling game with a trip to state on the line.
“We have to be really patient. We’re not going to put 40 points on them in a half,” Narum said. “It’s going to be a punch-counter punch type of game.”
Lourdes and Lake City are set for a 7 p.m. kickoff at the Rochester Regional Sports Stadium.
While the Tigers are able to strike with a myriad of weapons, the Eagles’ attack comes hard and heavy on the ground. Three players – running backs Griff Slightam and McKay Carstens, and quarterback Mark Pagel – scored double-digit rushing touchdowns in the regular season. Because of their bulldozing rushing game, the Eagles rank third in Class 3A with 38.9 points per game.
Narum says there is nothing complicated about how Lourdes runs the ball, but the Eagles excel in their simplicity.
“Lourdes is just going in the I (formation) with a tight end and a fullback, and they’re going to run it right at you,” Narum said. “There’s no dressing it up or trying to be fancy. They know what they’re doing.”
In the first two rounds of the section playoffs, Lake City struggled in pass coverage, which helped keep La Crescent and Winona Cotter in contention against the Tigers. But led by linebackers Will Balow, Mitch Kuchinka and Elliot Cox, Lake City has been stout against the run, something Narum hopes holds up against Lourdes.
“We’ve been pretty solid in the second part of the season,” Narum said about the Tigers’ run defense. “But we haven’t seen a run game like Lourdes. No question, they have the best offensive line we’ve faced all season.
“It seems like we’ve been playing passing teams it seems like forever now,” Narum added. “We feel good going up against what (the Eagles) do on offense. They don’t do a lot of fancy stuff. They run five or six plays, but they run them very well.”
Simplicity is also a staple of the Eagles’ defense, which has held opponents to 13.9 points a game, fifth best in Class 3A.
“They don’t do a lot of crazy, wild stuff. They play a lot of 4-4 and Cover-3,” Narum said. “They play really sound, fundamental football.”
Narum believes he has the skill players and the quickness to give the Eagles’ defense fits. As long as the Tigers can avoid turning the ball over, Lake City can put itself in contention for its first trip to state since 2001.
“If you make any mistakes, they’ll take advantage,” Narum said. “We just have to play a sound game.”