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PB Game Of The Week: Fast-rising P-E-M, Lake City set for a showdown

The Lake City and Plainview-Elgin-Millville football teams weren't looking so good just a couple of years ago. But things have sure changed.

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Lake City quarterback Justin Wohlers (7) throws a pass as Dover-Eyota's Karsen Behnken (54) closes in during a football game last season in Eyota. Post Bulletin file photo / Joe Ahlquist

Two years ago, if it had been said that Plainview-Elgin-Millville taking on Lake City would be one of the most anticipated matchups of the 2021 football season, fans would have retorted with an incredulous “What?”

P-E-M finished the 2019 season 2-7. Lake City, which hasn’t finished with a winning season since 2012, was 3-5 in ’19.

But goodness, how things have changed.

Lake City enters Friday’s 7 p.m. game at Elgin 3-0 and ranked third in Class AAA. P-E-M is also 3-0 and ranked seventh.

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Both sides are loving their new realities and champing at the bit for Friday to happen in what is this week’s Post Bulletin Game of the Week.

“We’re pretty excited about it,” P-E-M coach Kevin Lamb said. “We’ve got a rivalry with (Lake City) in a lot of sports. We had some Lake City football players come to one of our volleyball matches the other day.”

Then, Lamb offered with a laugh: “I think there was some posturing going on.”

Both know they’d better strike a decidedly winning posture in this matchup to have a chance. These teams are the opposite in what they do best. Lake City has one of the more high-octane offenses around, as well as arguably the best quarterback in the area, all-around athlete Justin Wohlers.

The 6-foot-5, 205-pound Wohlers has already passed for 674 yards and rushed for 303. But he’s not nearly the only one who makes things happen for an offense that’s averaging 38 points per game.

P-E-M, meanwhile, boasts a defense that’s been incredibly stingy. The Bulldogs, with fast, strong and tough athletes all around, are allowing just two points per game.

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Here’s a look at what to expect from both teams.

PB GAME OF THE WEEK

LAKE CITY at PLAINVIEW-ELGIN-MILLVILLE

Friday, 7 p.m.

Records: Lake City is 3-0 in the Southeast District and overall. P-E-M is also 3-0, 3-0.

Last meeting: P-E-M beat Lake City 27-7 on Nov. 6 last season.

Last game: Lake City beat Lourdes 46-32, while P-E-M downed Zumbrota-Mazeppa 33-0.

Lake City notes: This has been a year to celebrate for the senior-dominated Tigers. After not having a winning season since 2012, Lake City is rolling. It started off the year by handing Caledonia its first loss in 72 games, then followed that with decisive wins over La Crescent and Lourdes. It’s Lake City’s offense that gets most of the attention, led by quarterback Justin Wohlers, and receivers Carson Matzke (17 catches, 257 yards) and Matt DeMars (10 catches, 239 yards). DeMars is one of the faster players in the state. Despite being 6-7, he can run a 4.4 40-meter dash. He also plays linebacker. Wohlers has passed for 674 yards and rushed for 303. Lake City’s defense has allowed 19 points per game.

Plainview-Elgin-Millville notes: It is that Bulldogs defense that leaps out, with them allowing an almost-unheard-of two points per game. P-E-M has shut out its last two opponents, Dover-Eyota and Zumbrota-Mazeppa. It held Caledonia to six points. Offensively, P-E-M has gotten good play from quarterback Connor McGuire. He’s completed 27 of 45 passes for 468 yards, six touchdowns and just one interception. Leading rusher is Hunter Tennis (230 yards on 48 carries). After graduating a bunch of players off a team that made it all the way to the section title game last year, not quite as much was expected of this season’s Bulldogs. But they’ve quickly proven they are a handful again.

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Lake City coach Trevor Narum says: “I knew our kids had potential, but you never know for sure what’s going to happen until it happens. Wohlers has had a spectacular season for us so far. As a dual-threat quarterback, he’s as good as there is in this area and maybe the state. He has a good command of our offense and looks really confident and poised out there. . .P-E-M is super athletic. This will be the most athletic secondary we’ll have seen so far. Defensively, they are very aggressive and love to blitz. Offensively, they can run it or throw it and they are really well coached.”

P-E-M coach Kevin Lamb says: “We have to slow down Wohlers. He is the key to making everything go over there. Our defense is going to have to play fast and confuse him on his reads. But we have to respond well after Lake City has a big play. We have been dominant on defense. But we won’t be as dominant against Lake City. But I think we can play defense good enough to win. Offensively, we have to mix it up. Lake City is big and fast. We have to put together sustained drives.”

Pat has been a Post Bulletin sports reporter since 1994. He covers Rochester John Marshall football, as well as a variety of other southeastern Minnesota football teams. Among my other southeastern Minnesota high school beats are girls basketball, boys and girls tennis, boys and girls track and field, high school and American Legion baseball, volleyball, University of Minnesota sports (on occasion) and the Timberwolves (on occasion). Readers can reach Pat at 507-285-7723 or pruff@postbulletin.com.
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