This is absolutely the biggest game of the regular season for the Wayzata Football Trojans as they take on the Skippers of Minnetonka in a battle for supremacy in the Classic Lake Conference as well as the Top 10 rankings in the metro area. The Trojans are ranked #2 by the Star Tribune and the Skippers are ranked #3.
Look for Wayzata to ride the strength of the rushing attack with Kevin Knight who had 8 carries for 113 yards against Rochester Century. Look for Chris Kroeten to get some action as well. Wayzata quarterback John Ries will have to do well getting the ball to Cecil Doe and Fritz Rock against a tough Minnetonka defense. Rock will have to do much better against Minnetonka as he had only one catch against Rochester.
The Trojan defenders will have to stop Paris White and Ismail Karon, Minnetonka’s 1-2 punch in the rushing game. In order to win, Wayzata will also have to get Tonka QB Tom Ahrens make some mistakes in the Minnetonka system.
As part of Wayzata.com’s preview of Wayzata vs Minnetonka, Head Coach Brad Anderson was nice enough to join me for a telephone interview. Here is what he had to say about his football team, the win against Rochester Century, and the upcoming game against Minnetonka.
DG How are things going so far for your football team?
BA We’re still doing a lot of experimenting as far as putting pieces together, trying to see what combinations work best.
DG What will you be changing?
BA The biggest changes we are going to make are more scheme wise. we try to look at what schemes fit our players best and then try to determine whether or not those players can function at the level we need to by the end of the year in order to be successful. So defensively, we always look at two or three different schemes–Coach Lombardi was one of those guys who would go through 2 or 3 different schemes during practice that week and Wednesday or Thursday, this one will suit us best. It just seems about mid season we have a better idea of what we are going to be defensively. If you look at our teams over the last 3 or 4 years, looked at tape, you would say, wow, they don’t have a real defensive scheme, and that’s just because we try to tailor it to the players he has for that season. That’s where a lot of our experimenting is going.
Offensively, we try to look at our lineman and backs and that and find out which blocking scheme is going to suit those guys best, so that’s what we are playing around with right now.
DG Have you seen any film on Paris White and Ismail Karon, the 1-2 punch for the Minnetonka rushing game?
BA Yeah, we got their week 1 game film, I thought both, or actually they had about 3 or 4 backs that looked pretty good. Paris we knew from last year, he played against us last year, Ismail, we played against last year as well. They didn’t use him as much against us last year. You can see them on film and they are big physical runners, and both of them are very effective inside as well as they get a seam and run long distances on you. So the key is not to let them get a good head of steam because they are very big and they are very physical.
DG What do you think of Tom Ahrens, the Minnetonka quarterback?
BA You know what, I thought he ran their system really well. They are not asking their quarterback to drop back 25-30 times a game and win a game for them. They are asking their quarterback to execute a good game for them with good ball fakes, play action pass, and he does that extremely well. He throws a nice three step, and he’s good a getting outside of the pocket and putting pressure on your defense. That’s real typical of the type of quarterback Minnetonka seems to look for–kind of an athlete, who can put pressure on you both by rolling out and getting out of the pocket, and hitting the flats.
DG Your defensive schemes, how are you going to pressure him, or what are you going to do to control him?
BA Well, their line looks pretty big, again, I’m watching them on film, but their line is pretty big so I don’t know if you can get a lot of pressure that way on him. For us, we are going to have to depend on our defensive backs to do a pretty good job of covering people and hopefully with time we will be able to get some pressure. It’s a challenge because they do a nice job of turn back protection and bringing both backs to one side and it’s really tough to get a guy through their. If you are counting on blitzing or getting pressure that way on the quarterback, you are probably not going to get their in time. We are expecting our defensive backs to have to play good coverage.
DG Did you see anything that needed improvement last week?
BA Yeah, we put up some points, but that doesn’t mean that we executed as well as we liked. One of the things that your see early in the year, your timing isn’t quite right, maybe some of your reads aren’t quite right. Special teams wise I thought we made too many mistakes with penalties and just people not executing as well as needs to happen. The big thing we are going to look at is just can we execute a little better as far as techniques and assignments both on offense and defense.
DG Is there anything you were really pleased with against Rochester Century?
BA I thought our backs ran very hard. I thought they gave us really good effort all night long, and I thought our offensive line gave us really good effort all night long. On both sides of the ball, offensively and defensively the effort was there. I thought the players were all, you know, enthusiastic and played with a lot of emotion which you have to do. You can’t do that in practice every day, but you certainly need to be able to get up for games and I thought they did that. I thought we had a lot of kids have a chance to contribute last week which was also key because during the course of the season, you are going to have some players get injured and you have to have other players ready to go.
DG Did anybody get injured?
BA We did lose Jerry Bao, who is our nose guard, lost him for a while here. He dislocated his elbow, and so we don’t know his status this year, but that was the key loss for us at this point.
DG Have you got someone that can fill his role well?
BA We’ll find out! That’s a key position for us, and it’s a tough spot to fill, it takes kind of a unique ability and skill to play that position–you have to be willing to play in a really small space, and yet you have to be fairly good sized, athletic and that so, it’s a tough position for us to fill, we have a couple of guys we are going to look at and see how it works.
DG How do you think Kevin Knight will do on Friday?
BA I thought Kevin did a great job, first game back after over a year off. He didn’t play last year because of a shoulder injury and surgery that he had to have. So he had all last season off, and a lot of times if you take a season off, even without an injury, it’s tough to come back. And then when you have an injury as severe that requires surgery, that makes it difficult and he did a really nice job for us. He ran hard, all of our backs did, but I thought he made some nice cuts and some nice reads and runs. So he gave us more than what I would have expected from him after having been gone the whole previous year.
DG How did you think John Ries did?
BA I thought he got better as the game went on. John, seemed to be more and more comfortable throwing the ball from the pocket, I think he realized his line was giving him pretty good protection, and I thought he put some balls in just the right spot. His touchdown pass to Nolan Odland was absolutely perfect. It just dropped right in over his shoulder, and there is nothing the defender could have done on that play. To me, (Ries) just seemed to get better as the game went on. Made a lot of good decisions, protected the ball. That’s one of the things we ask our quarterback to do, put the ball in a place where we have a chance to get it but keep it away from the defense. He did well at that.
DG Cecil Doe had 4 catches for 100 yards and Fritz Rock only had 1 catch. Anything happen with Fritz, or?
BA No that’s the way… I think Cecil took a short hitch and had a nice run, he had a deep ball thrown to him during our 2 minute drills, those were 2 of the 4 catches he had…
DG That’s a great night for receiver…
BA Yeah, especially because we are not a team that’s going to throw the ball, like some teams are. But he made big plays when he had the opportunity and Fritz just didn’t have the opportunity. He just had the one ball thrown to him. We feel like we have 4 or 5 or 6 receivers that all can make big plays. Next week in could be Matt Tarpley, it could be Nolan Odland, it could be AJ Troup, so we have some other guys that will catch the ball as well for us.
DG Good luck Coach!
The Skippers always seem to know how to spoil an outstanding Wayzata Football season, and it will take a near flawless performance by the Trojans this time around. Will Minnetonka prevail, or will the Trojans step up to the plate and beat the pressure? My prediction, Wayzata 21, Minnetonka 20. Stay tuned to Wayzata.com, your Wayzata Football leader.