This has not been the season that the John Marshall and Century football teams had been hoping for.
Combined, the schools have just two wins between them, with 10 losses.
On Friday at JM's John Drews Field, one of them is assured of tacking on an elusive second win as they take each other on at 7 p.m. Century is likely favored, having beaten the Rockets five straight times and suffered fewer lopsided losses than JM this season.
But that comes nowhere close to meaning that Century is taking things for granted. It has struggled too much itself this season — and also knows the potential of the speedy but injury-riddled Rockets — for that.
"JM has the potential each week to beat most teams they face but have yet to put everything together," Century coach Jon Vik said. "Coach (Kevin) Kirkeby has done a nice job adapting to injury and moving many of his chess pieces around to make the best of things."
Kirkeby has similar respect for Vik and the Panthers, who are coming off a narrow 28-14 loss to Northfield
"Their quarterback (Matt Haun) has been running the ball well, their defensive line has been plugging things up and their linebackers fly around," Kirkeby said. "I see improvement from them for sure."
Here's a closer look at how the teams match up:
CENTURY at JOHN MARSHALL
7 p.m. Friday
John Drews Field
Records: Century is 1-5 in the Big Southeast Red and overall. JM is also 1-5, 1-5. Both team's wins have come against Austin.
Last meeting: Century beat JM twice in 2020, 34-19 in the season opener and 28-26 in the lone Section 1AAAAA playoff game for each team.
Last game: Century lost 28-14 to Northfield and JM lost 41-0 to Owatonna.
Century notes: The Panthers have held the upper hand in the recent city rivalry with five straight wins in the series. This game seems destined to determine the No. 4 and 5 seeds in the six-team Section 1AAAAA playoffs, and the two foes are likely to meet again in the section quarterfinals. Century has struggled to establish its ground game for most of the season and had just nine yards in last week's setback. Cole Elbing leads the team with 309 yards rushing and QB Matt Haun has run for 226 and passed for 513 yards. The Panthers now have more yards passing this season than rushing (615 to 601). Sophomore QB Harrison Esau entered late last week and threw his first varsity TD pass, an 11-yarder to junior Josh Berg, who scored his first TD. Coach Jon Vik said for the offense to have more success, the Panthers need to avoid mental and physical mistakes. “We just need to become more disciplined," senior WR/DB Damian Gerads said.
John Marshall notes: John Marshall notes: Injuries have defined the John Marshall season as much as anything. The Rockets had eight starters out in the Owatonna game, including key ones such as 6-foot-4, 305-pound lineman Ben Laack, receiver/defensive back Michael Nicometo and receiver/defensive back Peter Ladu who are likely out for the season. At one point against Owatonna, JM had eight players on defense who were either sophomores or freshmen. . .Darius Jordan has started the past two games at quarterback. The sophomore has replaced Gunnar Dokken, who is out with a non-COVID virus. . .JM has had a difficult time running the football the last two games. It rushed for just 58 yards against Owatonna and 42 against New Prague. Another problem for JM has been giving its quarterback time to throw. . .JM got strong games against Owatonna from defensive linemen Dominiq Price and Tate Zeller. Price had three sacks and Zeller had one.
Jon Vik says: "JM has the potential each week to beat most teams they face but have yet to put everything together. Coach Kirkeby has done a nice job adapting to injury and moving many of his chess pieces around to make the best of things. Offensively, JM has some explosive athletes who have shown the ability to run by any team. They have made a change at QB and seem to be looking to get him involved in both the passing and running game. Defensively, the interior line and linebackers make running the ball a challenge. The secondary has speed and has made plays on the ball. We need to focus offensively on cleaning up the mental aspect of our game, sustaining drives and putting the ball in the end zone. Defensively we need to contain the explosive JM players and put pressure on JM’s offense. Most importantly, we need to play physical on both sides of the ball and be fundamentally sound."
Kevin Kirkeby says: “We're going to have to play a really good game to get a victory. Their quarterback (Matt Hahn) has been running the ball well, their defensive line has been plugging things up and their linebackers fly around. I see improvement from them for sure. . .We can’t get caught up in the cross-town rivalry. We have to practice well and go through all of the mental preparation so that come Friday, we are just reacting.”
Up next: In the regular-season finale on Wednesday, Century hosts Winona and JM plays at Stewartville.