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Football: Wingers await improved Hawks

In watching "a ton" of film in preparation for Friday's Missota Conference contest with Chaska, Red Wing head football coach Matt Schultz sees a completely different Hawks team from a year ago.

The offense hasn't changed, as Chaska still runs a triple option offense. Little as changed on defense with the Hawks' cover-3 and cover-4 schemes.

The biggest different is seeing a bigger, more seasoned group taking the field for Chaska.

"The No. 1 difference is experience," Schultz said. "You can spend a lot of time doing the X's and O's, but at the end of the day, it's the horses running the race that win it for you."

A year ago, Chaska went 1-8 overall and 1-6 in the Missota, with its only win coming against Northfield. In just three games in 2012, the Hawks have doubled that win total.

Last Friday, Chaska (1-1 Missota, 2-1) upset the two-time defending conference champions, Shakopee, after blocking a 47-yard field goal attempt with 15 seconds left in the game. The victory snapped the Sabers' 16-game conference win streak.

"They're definitely a bigger team than they had last year," Schultz said of the Hawks. "They scrimmaged teams like Wayzata and Prior Lake, which is good competition for them. ... After having played Shakopee already, I know they have to be strong to stop Shakopee's offense."

While the Hawks line up in a spread formation, the crux of their offense comes from the run game, where senior running back Kolby Seiffert and sophomore quarterback Justin Arnold have carried the workload. In Chaska's game against Chanhassen, the duo combined to run the ball 45 times, helping the Hawks to 232 rushing yards.

But unlike Shakopee's bulldozing run game, the Hawks have shown their ability to break off big plays.

Arnold went 50 yards for Chaska's first score against Shakopee, and against Winona in the season opener, Arnold and Seiffert had touchdowns of 55 and 65 yards, respectively.

"They spread the ball around a little bit, but it's nothing different than what we'll see out of New Prague or Northfield," Schultz said. "It's responsibility football. Our team defensive philosophy is to do your job, and rely on the guys around you to do their jobs."

Against Farmington last week, three plays of 60-plus yards burned the Wingers' defense in the first half, leading to a 35-14 loss.

Schultz said injuries rattled Red Wing's defense with cornerback Andrew Sandstrom and outside linebacker Anthony Kimmes sitting out against the Tigers.

Schultz said he hopes to get one of those two players back for Friday's game, which takes place at 7 p.m. in Chaska.

"When you lose your starting linebacker and the team you play posts 200 yards rushing on the side he plays at, you can say that's an impact," Schultz said. "... That's the hard thing about how we play football. We don't have 60 or 70 guys. I think injuries impact our squad more than others (in the conference)."