Football: Cannon Falls ready to clash with defending champsBombers look to reach the state tournament for the first time in 16 years when they take on St. Croix Lutheran on Friday
By: Joe Brown, The Republican Eagle
Getting ready for the Section 4AAA finals on Friday, Cannon Falls head football coach Josh Hofstedt admits that maybe his team is a little too hyped up.
The only team left between the Bombers and their first state trip since 1996 is St. Croix Lutheran, the defending Class 3A state champions. And in preparation for the Crusaders, Hofstedt has seen his players come into practice with an abundance of anxious energy.
The key now for Hofstedt and the Cannon Falls coaching staff is quelling that excitement.
“We have to make sure we keep our focus on releasing (that energy) on Friday,” Hofstedt said.
Set for kickoff at 7 p.m. in West St. Paul, St. Croix Lutheran (7-1) comes in as one of Class 3A’s most potent offenses. Featuring a Veer option attack, the Crusaders rank second in the state in points per game (45.0) and point differential (26.1), trailing just Lake City in both categories.
The Bombers have faced the Veer in both their playoff wins against Minneapolis Edison and Concordia Academy-Roseville, but neither team runs it as effectively as St. Croix Lutheran.
“Personnel-wise, that’s not the issue. It’s the efficiency with that offense,” Hofstedt said. “They’re crisp and they don’t make mistakes. We just have to play assignment football.
“We keep preaching about trusting your teammates,” Hofstedt added. “The players have to trust that their teammates will make plays and will do their job on defense. They may not always get the glory, but it’s assignment football and they must do their job.”
This season, Cannon Falls has had its most success in the second half. Against Concordia Academy-Roseville on Saturday, the Bombers overcame a 14-point deficit to come away with a 17-14 win. But against the Crusaders, Hofstedt knows his team will need his players to be on top of their game for all 48 minutes.
“We’ve had six games this year where we’ve come from behind, but we can’t do that against a team like St. Croix,” Hofstedt said. “We have to play at our high level right away. … We hope to have that momentum (from the semifinals win) stays. We have to get our arms around our nerves.”
Offensively, Cannon Falls is set to take on a defense that will face up with anything the Bombers can throw at them.
“They’re going to press us a lot, use a lot of man coverage and will stay right in your face,” Hofstedt said. “We have to beat them one-on-one, and we have to beat their corners and linebackers in the passing game.”
Hofstedt gets why his team is the underdog: the Bombers are in the process of building a program while the Crusaders are a Class 3A powerhouse. But Cannon Falls isn’t listening to the underdog talk.
“We’re not talking about how they’re they defending champs. We just know we have to play,” Hofstedt said. “The boys are playing with a lot of confidence in the playoffs and it’s showing.”