Football: Knights staying focused on first-ever section title game
Maple River and Kenyon-Wanamingo both opened the season with a loss. Jackson Country Central dropped the Eagles, while the Knights were downed by Goodhue. Since, Maple River has gone 8-1 while K-W has won nine straight.
On Saturday, the two teams will meet at 1 p.m. in New Ulm in the Section 2AA championship game. Both teams will be looking for its first berth in the state tournament, with the Knights playing in their first section title game.
“I’ve had a lot of old classmates and friends, I went to school here, so it’s neat to hear them keeping that connection to the program. I don’t know if they’ve always had that connection or if it’s because things are going well,” said K-W head coach Jake Wieme. “The (players) have been great, they’re excited. They’re not satisfied and ready to be done, but they’re happy with their accomplishment.”
Success is no stranger to K-W fans, it just hasn’t been seen on the gridiron. But this year, coupled with an 8-2 season in 2015 that ended with a semifinal loss to the Eagles, has the two communities on board the football bandwagon.
“Football in small towns is usually pretty good, everyone does a good job supporting it. I thought crowd we had on Monday night for a Halloween football game was fantastic,” Wieme said. “Part of it growing that following with success. We had a pretty good year last year, and a good one this year. Hopefully it’s something we can build on.”
Seven hours after kickoff, there will be another section championship game as the K-W volleyball teams faces Belle Plaine at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Getting the team to focus on football has been the main point of emphasis for Wieme.
“We made them miss the game on Tuesday, in fact,” Wieme said. “We’ve done a good job all year of taking it one game at a time. We can’t think about what winning this game means. We have to focus on the game at hand. There is that extra excitement and other things going on this week. But we have to put those off as best we can. But that’s what everyone deals with at this time of year.”
On the field, Wieme has a good idea of what Maple River will do.
“They run a spread offense with a little of everything. They have a good passing game, and their quarterback is a dual threat,” Wieme said. “They’re a good team. They made it to this game last year. They’re definitely a good challenge for us.”
Usually facing a passing attack in November is a treat for defenses. Cold, rain, maybe a little snow, those are the conditions that normally greet section title games. This year is not normal, and it makes it a bit tougher for one side of the ball.
“We had that in the Medford game, where it was making sure we control the ball and don’t lose it. But Medford was still able to throw the ball,” Wieme said. “But the weather we’ve had has been fantastic. And it sounds like it will be that way on Saturday, too. It’s nice in our case that we don’t have to be one dimensional and that we can throw it.”
Should the Knights take advantage of the sun and relative warmth, the state tournament will be the next step. Coaches are not ones to look ahead. But with what has been accomplished already this year, K-W is bracing for a new future that may already be here.
“I don’t want to say it means we’re there yet, because we’re going to lose a lot of (seniors). I think for the program itself, just being here we’re going in the right direction,” Wieme said. “It gets those younger kids excited. Two years in a row winning, getting the numbers up and getting people supporting us. We’ve got it going the right way.”