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Goodhue picks up where it left off

GOODHUE - A winning culture permeates the Goodhue football team and this year is no different.

The Wildcats continue to roll despite graduating multiple key players from last year's state semifinal team.

Goodhue is 3-0 this season, averaging 297 rushing yards per game despite losing star running backs Jared Dicke and Ross Schrimpf to graduation. The Wildcats are re-stocked and hoping this season they can remove the bitter taste a 49-30 loss to Barnesville in the Class A state tournament semifinals at the Metrodome left in their mouths during the offseason.

"Expectations are about the same as last year," Goodhue senior quarterback Brandon Dowden said. "We're going for the No. 1 seed (in sections). We want to get back to the Dome. We want to get as far as we can there. We were just one game short of making it to the championship game last year, so that kind of hurt, but we think we can do it again."

Starting in his second season, Dowden is taking the leadership role in stride and his teammates are taking notice.

"He brings confidence to the offense," senior running back Alex Brunholzl said. "He's always ready to go and always ready to be the leader on offense."

Dowden isn't the only constant from last year's success. The offensive line returned four starters from a year ago and their experience has given the Wildcats a winning edge in the trenches.

Goodhue has run for 891 yards in three games, including 331 last week against Hayfield. Those same players are stymieing the opponents' running game: They only allowed Hayfield 13 rushing yards.

"There's a lot of experience and I had (past players) show me everything," senior lineman Weston Gadient said. "Me and (senior lineman) Kyle Diercks started since sophomore year and our center and tackle on the other side started last year."

"We're going to go as far as our line takes us," Goodhue coach Tony Poncelet said. "They've really controlled the line of scrimmage in two of the three ballgames."

In addition to adding players in the secondary and the backfield, the Wildcats are thriving through a coaching change.

Poncelet, a graduate of Goodhue and offensive coordinator for the 14 years, is keeping the Wildcats on track in his first year taking over as head coach for Clair Austin, who resigned last spring.

Poncelet is trying to bring the two-time state championship program back to the state finals, but he will be doing it without senior tight end and linebacker Taylor Benda. Benda tore his ACL in the second game against Cannon Falls.

"He's one of our best football players," Poncelet said. "It's tough to watch a guy that prepared for this season so hard, to have it end like that, you never want to see that happen to a kid.

"Losing Benda is definitely a setback but after three games we're right where we wanted to be."

Even though he is unable to play his final season, Benda is keeping a positive attitude.

"Since the injury I just try to be a good leader on the sidelines," Benda said. "Make sure everyone is keeping their head up and gives it their all every game. I try to be vocal and help out the younger guys."

Those younger guys have stepped up for the Wildcats and will be needed Friday at home against Triton, a team none of the current players have ever beaten.

"They like to be tough," Brunholzl said. "They're hard hitters, all of them."

Poncelet is telling his team to expect a dangerous Triton team to show up Friday night. Its physical defense and motion heavy offense will put pressure on a young Wildcats secondary. The Cobras are 0-3 but are one of the best football programs in southern Minnesota, he said.

"If you look past Triton, you're kidding yourself," Poncelet said. "They could be 0-7 and I'd never look past Triton."

This week's game will be a stepping stone for the rest of the season and a win will bring Goodhue closer to the end goal of gaining a top seed in the section.

"We haven't beat Triton since we've been in the HVL so it's kind of a big game," Dowden said. "We just want to beat them."

Chris Harrell
Chris Harrell is a sports reporter for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, he interned at the St. Paul Pioneer Press and The Daily Caller in Washington, D.C. For updates on local sports, follow Chris on Twitter at @RECHarrell.
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