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For once, Triton ready to be tested

By Donny Henn

The Post-Bulletin

HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL

Sooner or later the Triton football team is bound to meet its match, or at least an opponent that can give the Cobras a full night’s work.

"You’d have to assume that, and we kind of hope it’s Friday night," said Triton head football coach Don Henderson.

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"Honestly, our starters can’t wait to play four quarters of football."

Top seed Triton (9-0) plays host to No. 2 seed New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva (6-4) in the championship round of the Section 2AA playoffs Friday night in Dodge Center.

Both teams are coming off blowout wins in the semifinals, with NRHEG winning 50-7 over Waterville-Elysian-Morristown, and Triton crushing Montgomery-Lonsdale 63-8.

For No. 2-ranked Triton, it was more of the same.

Triton has dominated almost every opponent this season, winning nine games by an average score of 52-9. The one-sided games have meant that Triton’s starters and even second teams have seen limited playing time.

Last week, Henderson used 12 running back against M-L, and seven of them scored touchdowns. Three different receivers also caught scoring passes, making it hard for Henderson to hear grumbling that Triton had run up the score.

The Cobras’ wishbone double-slot offense has demonstrated it can strike by the ground with a stable of backs that’s eight or nine deep, or by the air with a two-quarterback system featuring senior starter Zach Erdmann and junior Riley Kispert. They’ve combined to throw 16 touchdowns, with only one interception.

"They had a good competition in the preseason, and they both demonstrated that they could lead the offense," Henderson explained.

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While Triton’s offense has been virtually unstoppable, the Cobras defense has been stingy and opportunistic. Triton is a robust plus-20 in takeaways, with seven in last week’s quarterfinal win.

Most of Triton’s thievery has been committed by the secondary with 18 interceptions. Sophomore Damon Andrews, who became the starting safety in the fifth week, leads the team with six pick-offs.

While Triton has remained healthy for the most part, NRHEG has lost some key players to injuries, including their No. 1 running back, Blake Kerkhoff, to a broken collarbone in the seventh week.

NRHEG still ran all over WEM in the semifinals, with 175-pound junior Gaven Schlaak rushing for 255 yards on 19 carries.

Junior quarterback Dakota Tracy is a second-year starter who has passed for over 1,500 yards this season.

Playoff history is on Triton’s side. These teams have met three times before in the playoffs, and the Cobras have won all three — in the section semifinals in 1993 and 1995, and in the quarterfinals in 1997.

One of Triton’s assistant coaches is Adam Barner, who previously was at NRHEG as an assistant and as the head coach for three seasons.

"We haven’t learned a thing about New Richland from Barner," Henderson joked.

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"He’s been completely useless to us in preparing for this game."

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