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FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK Move to Three Rivers a good one

Rushford-Peterson heating things upwith unbeaten record

The Rushford-Peterson football team has fit in just fine after its move to the Three Rivers Conference this season.

In fact, the Trojans are tearing things up, en route to going 6-0 and bringing to mind scintillating R-P teams of the late 1980s.

Those teams were built on speed. It's the same thing with this group, which is led by the scariest kick and punt returner in the area, Wade Thompson.

Thompson, a 165-pound senior and three-year starter at halfback, has already returned two kickoffs and three punts for touchdowns.

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"Returning kicks (and punts) is what he does best," R-P longtime coach Jim Reinhardt said. "He reads and sets up his blocks so well. And once he sees a crease, he's gone."

Thompson is not likely someone who would dominate in the 100 meters during track and field season, according to Reinhardt. But on a football field, he has a rare ability to run away from people. That speed and quickness has also helped him average around 8 yards per carry at halfback.

"He has football speed," said Reinhardt.

Chatfield coach Gary Hansen, who witnessed Thompson's breakaway abilities last week when his team fell 49-8 to the Trojans, put it this way: "Thompson can run almost as fast sideways as he does straight ahead. He is very good."

Thompson scored two touchdowns last week, one on a 82 yard kick return, the other on a 52-yard run from his halfback position.

But he wasn't the only R-P individual who jumped out at Hansen last week. Dan Moe, a 6-foot-3, 240-pound nose guard on defense, was just as impressive.

"You run into him, it's like running into a brick wall," Hansen said.

Moe is also a three-year starter.

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CHATFIELD'S STRUGGLES: The decline of the Chatfield football program didn't happen overnight. And its losing record didn't coincide directly with former offensive coordinator Gary Hansen taking over for Ken Jacobson, who retired at the close of last season. After all, the Gophers finished 4-5 in 2001.

"We were 7-3 the year before that, but we were going away from the things that made us good before, and that was playing good defense and running the ball right at them," said Hansen, who was coordinating the Chatfield offense when it won three straight state championships, beginning in 1994.

In fact, Hansen has been with the program the last 25 years. But this season, his first as the head man, has likely been his toughest. The Gophers have yet to win and are 0-6 overall. Making matters even tougher is last week the team lost standout defensive/linebacker Tyler Wright to a broken thumb.

Still, Hansen is trying to see the big picture. He wants a cure for the long term, not just for the final few games of the season.

"We've migrated away from (being a good defensive team and good rushing team on offense) the past two or three years and have been throwing the ball all over the place," Hansen said. "We need to become more physical and we need to get in the weight room more. We are going to try to push for (increased weight lifting) and emphasize it more in the offseason."

SINGLE WING AT TRITON: A self-professed football coaching tinkerer, Triton coach Don Henderson has been at it again this season.

This time, Henderson has borrowed an idea from old-time football, having instituted a variation of the single-wing formation. It has his center, Scott Perau, airing the ball on short hikes to one of two players in the Triton backfield, either his halfback or his fullback. There is no true quarterback standing behind the center in this offense, though the halfback has been given some opportunities to pass. Henderson estimates that he's called 32 passing plays in six games.

The reason for the switch from what had been a wide-open Cobras offense in recent years, was to cut down on mistakes.

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"I like the ball-control aspect of it," Henderson said. "I figured we'd have a good defense this year, and last year our offensive was prone to mistakes. This cuts down on mistakes. We handle the ball cleaner with these (aired) snaps from center. Plus, we don't have the quick kids along the offensive line like we used to. Instead we've got some bigger kids. In this offense those guys aren't required to pull as much."

Britton Wolf has been the featured back in the offense, at halfback, though Henderson runs in a number of players at that position. Last week Wolf carried the ball 31 times.

Henderson's players seem to be adjusting to the switch in offensive scheme. They go into this week's game against Winona Cotter 4-2 overall.

LA CRESCENT'S STAR: La Crescent High School possesses one of the state's top running backs.

Alex Wiese, a 6-foot, 200-pound senior, has already rushed for (1,294 yards and 17 touchdowns). Wiese rushed for 341 yards against Wisconsin Luther, and 260 yards against Houston.

A number of colleges are reported to be interested in his talents, including the University of Minnesota. Wiese runs a 4.5 40-yard dash.

Pat Ruff is a Post-Bulletin sports writer. He can be e-mailed at pruff@postbulletin.com

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