Football: Red Wing shows better than final score
Last year at this time, Red Wing was breaking in a new football coach after a tumultuous 2016 season saw the Wingers fail to crack the win column in nine games. This year, after a one-win season, Red Wing was hoping to find some measure of revenge against a New Prague team that welcomed Nate Freier back to Minnesota with a 48-point loss in his first game in purple and white since the '80s.
Friday's score wasn't much better than 2017, but the product on the field was much better. Sure, the Trojans tripled the Wingers' point total, but the 60-20 loss tied Red Wing's highest point total since October of 2016, and more than double the eight-point effort the Wingers mustered a year ago.
"It looked different," Freier said. "Take away the score, it looked different. There wasn't the special teams chaos. There wasn't any of the stuff that I sort of inherited when I got here, the 10 guys on the field stuff. The bottom line is that this program not only survives, but thrives. That's the important thing."
There were a couple problems with the special teams, but other than a 1-yard punt at the end of Red Wing's second series, the issues are correctable, like making the right read on a fake. But, unlike last year, the Wingers were able to move the ball. Simply gaining yards was a problem in 2017, but on Friday, Red Wing rushed 41 times for 163 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback Marcus Walm added 33 yards and a score through the air to go with his 57 yards and touchdown on the ground.
It wasn't efficient, and the Wingers were down 20-0 before they got on the scoreboard, but a level of competency has already been set.
"The big takeaway for us is that you can see the system is taking hold. Yes, we had some dumb miscues early on, turning the ball over. And we knew that it would be a problem if we did that against these guys," Freier said.
The biggest issue on Friday was the defense. And despite having the longest lead up of the season to figure out New Prague's ancient offense, the Trojans' superior team speed and execution were too much for a young Red Wing squad.
"It's a tough team to defend. That wing-T offense, you only see two of them a year. They're a really good offense and we knew that it would be challenging," Freier said. "It gets down to executing the basics. In the end, execution can beat athleticism. We've got some things to work on on defense. One thing you don't like to see is to get run all over. But the wing-T can do that to you, and the quarterback also throws a nice ball."
Walm scored the first touchdown of his senior season on a sneak with 26 seconds gone in the second quarter. That made the score 20-8, and the Wingers would fall further behind before Anthony Flucas scored from 11-yards out with 1:22 to play before half.
With the score standing 34-14, New Prague appeared to want to take the 20-point advantage into the locker room with Trojan quarterback Parker Johnson taking a knee. But when the opportunity came for a second knee, Johnson crouched, took a short drop, and flipped a pass to Ryan Schoenbauer who raced most of the 59 yards to pay dirt and a 41-14 lead after two quarters.
"I didn't find it to be dirty pool. That was just a good, strategic move. An excellent call," Freier said.
Walm hit Christian Connelly for an 11-yard touchdown in the third, which New Prague answered on its next drive. The Trojans added two more scores in the fourth to seal the books on the 2018 season-opener.
Same Guse led the Wingers with seven tackles and a forced fumble, while Mac DeSutter added five tackles and a fumble recovery. Cole Krie, Jack Carlson and Connelly each had four tackles.
Red Wing (0-1) will hop on a bus and head to Austin (0-1) for a Week 2 showdown with the Packers, who fell 52-28 at Rochester Mayo on Friday. It's the next chance for the Wingers to take one more step toward a stable program that measures progress in wins.
"I'm not unhappy at all. I'm very proud of this group. They've been through a lot, they've learned a lot and they've come a long way," Freier said. "This is going to be the foundation for a good Red Wing football program going forward."