football clash between John Marshall and Century.
By Donny Henn
Nobody has to explain to Paul Schwingler or David Koelln that there's a lot at stake in Wednesday night's Rochester intracity high school football clash between John Marshall and Century.
Emotions will run high on both sides of the ball and both sides of the field with an expected crowd of 4,000 to 5,000 at Century Stadium, with a share of the Big Nine Conference title and a top seed in the Section One, Class AAAAA tournament on the line.
But when Schwingler and Koelln look across the line of scrimmage, the two massive senior linemen will see more than just faceless opponents standing in the way of their football dreams: They will see old friends.
Schwingler is a 6-foot-3, 270-pound starting lineman and captain for the 7-0 Century Panthers, and Koelln is a 6-foot-5, 270-pound starting lineman and captain for the 6-1 John Marshall Rockets.
Not too long ago they were close neighborhood friends and teammates on the same youth football team.
"When we were little we used to hang out and go to each other's house and play; our moms are still best friends," Koelln explained.
"I would say that right up through elementary school we were best friends," said Schwingler. "But then I moved to another house, we started going to different schools, and at that point you just kind of grow apart."
Although not completely apart. Koelln and Schwingler still see each other almost every week, usually at their church where Koelln's dad, Tom, is a pastor.
"David is a fantastic guy," Schwingler said. "On the field I know he's a good leader who will be doing everything he can to fire up his team, just like I will be."
Schwingler and Koelln play different positions on the line, and both said it's unlikely that they will face other directly.
Schwingler noted that he has other friends on JM's team. That's why he has no venom for the Rockets.
"I'm not one of those guys who hates JM school or hates the Rockets football team," he said. "It would be the same for me if we were playing Winona for the conference title."
The Century-JM football rivalry was always more friendly than it was competitive in Century's short existence, until last year.
Century beat JM 21-14 in the last regular season game of 2003. It was Century's first win over JM, ending six years of futility.
It was a game that Koelln said the Rockets felt they let slip away, with a pair of lost fumbles deep in Century territory.
Koelln acknowledged that Century earned a new level of respect with that win, at least from the Rockets.
"JM-Century hasn't really been a big game, until last year," Koelln said.
"This is the first year that we're playing and both teams have something on the line.
"This might be the start of a big rivalry."
BOX; Wednesday's games
JM vs. Century
7 p.m., at Century Stadium
Records: John Marshall 6-1, Century 7-0.
What's at stake: The Big Nine Conference championship. Century has clinched a share and can claim its first conference football title outright with a win. JM can gain a share of the crown for the first time since 2000.
Last week: JM crushed Mayo 42-7 for its third straight win. Century smothered winless Winona 48-20.
Tradition vs. trailblazing: It's been four years since JM won a conference crown, but the Rockets owned the conference in the 1990's, winning or sharing 7 of 10 crowns. This is uncharted territory for the 7-year-old Century program. Last year was the Panthers' first winning season at 5-4, 5-3 in the Big Nine.
JM-Century series: JM has a 5-1 advantage. Century won for the first time in 2003, beating JM 21-14 at JM Stadium. Before it was JM winning in 2002 (28-7); twice in 2001 (27-6 in the regular season and 31-6 in the playoffs); in 2000 (42-14); and in 1999 (24-6). The teams didn't meet in Century's first season in 1998.
Rockets fuel: JM is coming into this game with loads of momentum. The Rockets played their most complete game of the season in beating Mayo by 35 points. JM's power running game was devastating, and it got three long plays for TDs out of speedy HB/WB Marcus Sherels. ... QB Nick Sikkink has led a passing attack that has been incredibly proficient, if not prolific. Sikkink has completed 58 percent of his passes and has thrown 5 touchdown passes and 0 interceptions. And look out for Sherels; He's averaging 26 yards per catch. Granted, it's been against two very struggling offenses (Winona and Mayo), but JM's defense has allowed just 7 points in its last two games.
Panthers plugs: Century easily has the most prolific offense in the Big Nine, averaging 40 points and 378 yards per game. The Panthers have won their last four games by halftime, with 35, 40, 35 and 41 points in the first halves of those contests. ... Senior RB Isaac Odim needs 27 yards for his first 1,000-yard season, although he is already the program's all-time rushing leader with over 2,600 career yards. ... Odim also leads the conference with 17 touchdowns. ... Junior kicker Kevin Hein is Century's third-leading scorer with 34 points. He has made 31 of 37 PAT kick attempts, plus a 31-yard FG in week two against Austin.
Avoid lines: Tickets are available at both school athletic offices on Wednesday from 7:15 a.m.-3 p.m. Admission is $6 for adults, $4 for students; Century student fall season passes are valid, but JM students must buy a ticket.
K-M at Lourdes
7 p.m. at John Marshall Stadium
Records: Both teams are 7-0 overall and 4-0 in the Blue Division of the Hiawatha Valley League.
Last week: Kasson-Mantorville turned the ball over three times on fumbles but hung on to a 17-6 win over Lake City last Friday while Lourdes defeated Cannon Falls, 28-14.
Last meeting: K-M rallied for a 15-8 win. Matt Franke's 14-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter sealed the deal for the KoMets. Franke rushed four times for 55 yards in the winning K-M drive. Cody O'Malley scored for K-M on a two-yard run and Eric May also scored on a 2-yard run for Lourdes.
The series: K-M has won 14 of the last 16 meetings with Lourdes. The last time these teams met at John Marshall Stadium two years ago, Lourdes came away with a 23-6 win. It was the Eagles' first win over K-M in 11 years.
What's at stake: The winner will win the HVL Blue Division championship. K-M and Lourdes are also fighting it out for one of the top seeds in Section One, Class AAA. K-M, Lourdes and Plainview/Elgin-Millville are all unbeaten while Caledonia has lost only once. Those four teams will be seeded 1-4, but the order won't be known until after play on Wednesday night.
Coaches: Ivan Kroulik is in his 16th season at K-M and has a 122-47 record. Lourdes coach Marv Peters is retiring this year after 10 years. He is 45-48.
Next: Section playoffs begin next Tuesday. The winner of this game will have the No. 1 seed of Section One, Class AAA while the loser is expected to get the No. 3 seed. Both will have homefield advantage in the first round, however. Plainview/Elgin-Millville is expected to have the No. 2 seed and Caledonia will get the No. 4 seed in the section.
Albert Lea at Mayo
7 p.m. at Mayo Stadium
Records: Mayo 2-5, Albert Lea 1-6.
Last week: The Spartans were upended 42-7 by John Marshall, which rolled up nearly 500 yards of total offense. Mayo ran for 98 yards and passed for 89 against the Rockets. Nobody gained more than 34 yards for Mayo.
Albert Lea fell 35-7 to Austin.
Struggles?: Mayo started the season with two wins, running its conference string of wins to 25 straight. From there, things went the other direction for the Spartans, who have lost five straight.
Albert Lea has been a better team this season than in past years. The Tigers rushed for 171 yards last week against Austin and had 278 total yards.
Top players: L.J. Stead has had the most carries for Mayo. He has 105 rushes for 344 yards. Tyler Rank has 45 carries for 297 yards.
Jordan Miller has thrown for 668 yards on 54 completions.
Section One tournament: Mayo will likely get the No. 4 seed in the upcoming section tournament, which will pit the Spartans against the top-rated team from the northern schools in the section, either Eastview or Lakeville.