High School Football Focus: Defenses suddenly unpredictable for top teams
Caledonia is one team that seems to be getting its defensive act together late in the season. But that didn't hold true for some other top teams in the area in Week 7 of the high school football season.
Defense — and the lack of it — ruled Week 7 of this year's high school football season.
The best defense belonged to Caledonia. The Warriors, who are suddenly surging, notched their second straight shutout as they beat an excellent Triton team 22-0. The leader of Caledonia's defense was junior linebacker Ayden Goetzinger, who flew around to make 18 tackles.
Let's take a look at all of it and also contemplate Wednesday's matchup between two of Class AAA's best teams, No. 1-ranked Lake City and No. 6 Cannon Falls.
Week 7’s Top Performers
1. LB Ayden Goetzinger, Caledonia
The junior was all over the field defensively for Caledonia as the Warriors pitched their second straight shutout, this one 22-0 over an excellent Triton team. Goetzinger, a linebacker, had a whopping 18 tackles.
2. RB Noah Smith, Mayo
The senior, who combines great speed and strength, was uncatchable in the Spartans' matchup with Austin. Smith scored five touchdowns, including one on a 97-yard kickoff return. Smith finished with 129 yards rushing on just 13 carries. He also had a 32-yard reception.
3. RB Tyler Archer, Blooming Prairie
The 5-foot-11, 190-pound Archer was part of a massive offensive day for Blooming Prairie (when isn't it massive for the Blossoms?). The senior running back ran for 247 yards. Blooming Prairie totaled 537 yards as a team.
4. RB Carson Hammel, Cannon Falls
The Bombers scored 52 points against formidable Plainview-Elgin-Millville and Hammel was a big part of that. The 175-pound senior had two rushing touchdowns and totaled 177 yards on 13 carries. That's a rare 14 yards per carry average.
5. QB Matt Haun, Century
The senior got his work done early, getting all of his 113 yards rushing and 108 yards passing done in the first half. That led to an easy 37-8 win over John Marshall.
Week 7 Power Rankings
(Editor's note: These rankings are considered "pound-for-pound" rankings, similar to many rankings systems in boxing and mixed martial arts. They represent the best teams in southeastern Minnesota, relative to the class they play in.)
1. Blooming Prairie (7-0)
There are just five unbeaten football teams left in southeastern Minnesota and the Blossoms are one of them. They continue to do Blooming Prairie things, racking up yards and points and being solid on defense. The latest victim of all of that was NRHEG, Blooming Prairie riding 227 yards of passing by star Drew Kittelson and a head-turning 242 yards rushing by Tyler Archer. No. 1 ranked Blooming Prairie is outscoring its opponents 45-9.
2. Lanesboro (7-0)
The Burros are ranked No. 2 in the state in Nine-Man. The only question about that centers on the team ahead of the Burros, Verndale. Is it really better than Lanesboro? Hard to imagine, but maybe. ... Anyway, Lanesboro has been as consistently great a team as we've had in the area this season. Only once has it scored fewer than 38 points, and only once has it allowed more than 20. The Burros have been too fast and physical for everyone.
3. Lake City (7-0)
Tough to dip the No. 1-ranked team in the state in Class AAA below this spot in our power poll. So I won't. But the number of points allowed by the Tigers on Thursday to Goodhue — 40 — is reason for pause. Those were the most points scored by Goodhue all season. Lake City won anyway, behind a prolific offense that certainly didn't take a break. The Tigers scored 59 points, their highest total of the season.
4. Stewartville (7-0)
It's sure good to have Alex Wood back. That's the refrain being spoken by the No. 4-ranked Tigers after the running back missed a pack of games with an ankle injury. He returned to the lineup last week and had 88 yards rushing and a touchdown in an impressive win over No. 5-ranked Kasson-Mantorville. Then Wood took things up another notch Friday against Winona — 155 yards rushing, 51 yards receiving and three touchdowns. Nothing like taking teams to the "Woodshed." Sorry. That was bad.
5. Chatfield (6-1)
The Gophers have not lost since their season-opener. They seem as tough on defense as they do on offense. And they have Sam Backer. The versatile, fast and ultra-strong junior is beating teams with his legs and his arm. He ran for 126 yards on Friday against Dover-Eyota and also was 3-for-4 passing for 83 yards and two touchdowns. And back to that Chatfield defense. Other than allowing 34 points (in a Chatfield win) to powerful Cannon Falls, the Gophers have allowed no more than 15 points in any of their last four games. It helps to have guys like Drew Schindler, who picked off two Dover-Eyota passes.
6. Cannon Falls (6-1)
Cannon Falls just jumped four spots in this power poll and did it by putting an exclamation mark on what's been an unstoppable option-run offense the last five weeks. Fifty-seven, 54, 34, 54 and 52. That's the streak of points the Bombers are on. That Cannon Falls got that last total against Plainview-Elgin-Millville is all the more impressive. P-E-M hadn't allowed more than 14 points all season. Up next is the Bombers' toughest test of the season, as it travels to take on No. 1-ranked Lake City on Wednesday.
7. Rushford-Peterson (7-0)
The Trojans jump one spot this week thanks not only to staying unbeaten, but coming up with point production that was off the charts. R-P put up 67 points in romping past struggling Hayfield. It was the defense which really did it for No. 4-ranked R-P, scoring three times, two of them interception returns for TDs by Dalton Hoel. The hesitation in ranking the Trojans too high in this power poll is their schedule. R-P has played just two teams with winning records, one of them 4-3 Randolph.
8. Mayo (6-1)
Mayo slips two spots not because it was tagged with a loss, but because it allowed winless Austin 400 yards of offense and 20 points. The Spartans scored 42 points, but that kind of allowance on defense is a precarious way to live. Mayo's ‘D’ has been slightly suspect all season, with games of 31, 22 and 20 points allowed. Spartans coach Donny Holcomb was not at all pleased with what he watched on that side of the ball on Friday and knows it could spell an early playoff exit by his No. 6-ranked Spartans if it continues.
9. Grand Meadow (6-1)
The Superlarks haven't lost a game since Sept. 3 and remain the only team to have given No. 2-ranked Lanesboro a serious contest. Grand Meadow led Lyle/Pacelli 33-0 at halftime on Friday. Five of its players scored touchdowns. The Superlarks are finally getting the respect they deserve state-wide, ranked eighth in Nine-Man.
The KoMets have been one of the area's best teams all season and added to that with a 54-14 drubbing of Red Wing. The combination of quarterback Matthew Donovan and running back Anthony Moe-Tucker is one of the best 1-2 punches around. K-M's two losses this season fall resoundingly under the forgivable category, 14-7 to 6-1 Mankato East and 28-21 to unbeaten Stewartville. K-M is ranked eighth in Class AAAA.
Things I think. . .
• The thought that Caledonia would finish with its first losing season under Carl Fruechte is now very much up for grabs. The Warriors have won their last two games and looked great in both, pitching shutouts against Lourdes and Triton. The latest was a 22-0 win over a Triton team that entered 5-1. I will say it again: Look out for Caledonia in the playoffs. The Warriors have a serious chance at making it to the state tournament if they keep up their recent defensive play.
• Teams — make that defenses — entered this week exhausted, for whatever reason. That had to be the deal after top-10 ranked teams Lake City, Plainview-Elgin-Millville and Mayo gave up a combined 134 points in their Week 7 games. Lake City and P-E-M had each boasted two of the best defenses in southeastern Minnesota prior to their most recent breakdowns.
• Byron is getting its frustrations out. The Bears were winless in their first five games, never losing any of them by more than 18 points. But they took all of that out against struggling teams Red Wing and Albert Lea the last two weeks, beating them by a combined 105-19.
Wednesday — the final day of the regular season — features one absolutely must-see contest. That one finds 6-1 Cannon Falls, maybe the hottest team in the area right now, traveling to take on unbeaten Lake City. The Bombers are ranked No. 6 in Class AAA, the Tigers No. 1.
Cannon Falls is coming off a stunningly one-sided (52-26) win over No. 8-ranked (Class AAA) Plainview-Elgin-Millville. Lake City beat P-E-M just 13-7 earlier this year.