Goodhue ground game faces test
By Ben Pherson
HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL
Three yards and a cloud of dust.
That’s always been the Goodhue way. At least under coach Clair Austin.
Goodhue’s power running attack will be put to the test Friday when the top-seeded Wildcats (9-1) host No. 2 Lester Prairie (9-1) in the Section Four, Class A championship game. The winner will host the top team from Section 2A, either Mankato Loyola or New Ulm Cathedral, in the state quarterfinals Friday, Nov. 10.
Heading into Friday’s section title showdown, both teams are hot: Lester Prairie has won nine consecutive games since losing its opener to Blooming Prairie, and the Wildcats have won eight straight since a loss to Southland.
Goodhue has defeated Lester Prairie in the section playoffs in each of the past two seasons.
Backfield mates Eric and Craig Ryan, along with fullback Micah Huneke, pace the Goodhue ground game, which runs out of a traditional wishbone set. Eric Ryan leads the team with 960 yards rushing and nine touchdowns. The Wildcats already have rushed for more than 2,000 yards this season.
"We’re a power running team, maybe even a little more than normal. But you’ll see a different kind of passing attack from us this year," Austin said.
That’s mainly due to standout quarterback Kelby Buck and a pair of quality receivers in Jordan Warren and Brett Watson. Buck has thrown for 1,000 yards this season. Watson (500 yards) and Warren (400 yards) have caught most of Buck’s passes.
Lester Prairie has great team speed and decent size, Austin said.
The Bulldogs feature running backs Lyndon Zakama and Alex Williams. But Austin said the team’s best athlete is quarterback Joe Kley.
"He can run and throw," Austin said of Kley. "They run about two-thirds of the time. But that kid can throw, and he has a few decent receivers."
Austin said Lester Prairie will use two tight ends often.
Lester Prairie hasn’t been tested often in the Gopher Valley Conference. The Bulldogs played mainly small schools, unlike the Wildcats, whose schedule features many Class AA and AAA schools.
The Bulldogs have outscored opponents 355-145 this season, while the Wildcats have bested their foes 213-101.
Austin expects Lester Prairie to provide a good test for the Wildcats.
"It should be a good game. The kids just need to stay focused and concentrate on their responsibilities," Austin said.