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PB's Picks: High school football games to watch this week

Rochester Mayo takes pride in holding the traveling trophy named after former longtime Rochester athletic director Gary Addington that the three Rochester public schools annually play for. But both Mayo and Century know anything can happen in these rivalry games.

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Mayo keeps the Addington Jug, which is passed from Rochester team to Rochester team, on their sidelines during a high school football game against Century Friday, Sept. 17, 2021, at Mayo High School in Rochester. Mayo beat Century 42-0. Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
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The first edition of the 2022 Battle for the Addington Jug is upon us, with Century preparing to host Mayo at 7 p.m. this Friday. 

The Spartans have held the traveling trophy named after former longtime Rochester athletic director Gary Addington for the past two seasons with sweeps over their intra-city rivals. Last year, Mayo ran away from Century 42-0.

The Mayo junior had another big performance against Northfield.

Yet, since the jug was first introduced in 2005, it has shown that it's never known what might transpire. 

“I think it's a cool thing that's been added in the city and we have it in our possession now. So it's more of defending it and making sure that it stays with us,” coach Donny Holcomb said. “But we know that the inner city games are a different beast. And if we don't come out, ready to compete and play better, mentally and physically anything can happen.”

The mental part of the game was lacking a bit for the Spartans (2-0) in their 35-6 win over Northfield in Week 2. Mayo recorded 20 penalties with over half those coming pre-snap. Holcomb summed it up as the Spartans wanting to play a bit too fast. The goal this week in practice was to speed things up, make it a bit more game-like.

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A more sound group on both sides of the ball should be a frightening sound for future opponents as the Spartans still beat the Raiders by four scores, despite more than 130 yards in flags. 

The dominant victory was because of that defense. 

In fact, Holcomb called it one of the best defensive games, hitting-wise, he had seen in recent years. 

The Spartans front seven has been particularly stout. Lineman Ethan Kramer, Lozoya, Jorge Martinez and Brigg Poppe eat up blocks, set the edge, allowing linebackers Spencer Kober and Logan Burger be aggressive. It’s not often those two miss tackles and with good speed, they run well sideline-to-sideline. 

Rudy Lozoya had two big plays, including a blocked punt for a touchdown as Mayo held off Northfield in a rain-soaked affair.

It makes for an imposing group. 

“We are all dogs,” said Lozoya, who had a blocked punt return for a touchdown in the win over Northfield. “We come every day, lift, get everything done. This defense works hard.” 

That group will be key against a Century offense that only mustered 47 total yards in a 24-0 setback against Owatonna last week. It comes on the heels of a tough 23-21 loss on a last second field goal to New Prague in Week 1.

The Panthers are expected to welcome back a couple of key offensive linemen who were out last week against the Huskies. Still, facing Mayo is a tall task.

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“Their defensive line has really stood out to us on tape,” Vik said. “They didn’t give Owatonna much room to breathe and they certainly took it to Northfield last week. And we’re trying to get back up to speed with our O-line so that’s going to be a challenge.”

On the other side of the ball, the Panthers have another big time challenge in stopping Mayo standout Carter Holcomb, who has caught a pair of touchdowns and has gone over 130 yards in each of the first two games.

He has shouldered the load offensively, yet the Spartans run game gained traction last week, specifically with sophomore Isaiah Beale — someone coach Holcomb said gives them a spark. With new quarterback Rees Grimsrud getting more and more comfortable, it seems it's only going to get better for Mayo.

“They have a nice running game that they’ve developed and they put pressure on you that way and then as soon as you commit more people to stopping the run, obviously they’ve got Holcomb as a wide receiver,” Vik said. “And they’ve got two or three other kids that make it a challenge to defend the width of the field.”

However, Century’s defense has played well this season, especially last week, holding Owatonna to 193 total yards and 168 on the ground. That group also looked pretty good against New Prague.

“They're always an aggressive defense,” Holcomb said. “They're going to play fast with their front seven or eight guys and offensively, they're going to wind things up with their offense and throw the ball around a lot. So we have to be extremely disciplined and, you know, not shoot ourselves in the foot that gives them any advantages."

Add it all up and the battle for the jug could be another good one.

PB’s PICKS

Lanesboro at LeRoy-Ostrander

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Thanks to a potent rushing attack, the Burros have arguably been the most impressive team in 9-Man so far this season. Lanesboro has rushed for more than 300 yards in every game this season en route to the 2-0 start. Orion Sass has been a big reason why, rushing for 441 yards and four touchdowns. The senior recorded 248 yards with two touchdowns against the Rebels last week. But it was the defense that was instrumental in Lanesboro scoring 24 unanswered points to overcome a 14-6 halftime deficit against Southland. Meanwhile, the defending state champion Cardinals are 1-1 and coming off a 46-30 loss to a talented Mabel-Canton team. M-C ran for over 370 yards against the Cardinals defense. L-O is airing it out a little more this year. Tristan Lewison caught 10 passes for 129 yards and a touchdown against M-C. Ryan Sweeney had two catches for 125 yards against Southland in the opener.

Mabel-Canton at Spring Grove

Another 9-Man game gets the nod here as a pair of unbeatens with explosive offenses square off. Both offenses are averaging over 43 points per game with Spring Grove coming in with an eye-popping 108 points between the two games. Quarterback Eli Solum is doing a little bit of everything for the Lions. He’s completed 20 of his 31 passes for 264 yards with four touchdown passes to go along with 285 yards rushing and two TDs on 21 carries in two games. Cayden Tollesfrud has been just as impressive for M-C, rushing for 359 yards and five touchdowns. He rushed for 187 yards and three touchdowns in the Wildcats victory over defending state champion LeRoy-Ostrander.

Rochester teams

Northfield at John Marshall, 1 p.m. Saturday: This has not come close to the kind of start the new-look John Marshall football team had hoped for or expected. The Rockets are 0-2, have yet to score a point, and have been outscored by a combined 53-0 against Mankato West and Austin. JM will be without its projected starting quarterback Darius Jordan for at least a month as he dislocated his elbow against Austin. JM made a bunch of physical and emotional mistakes against the Packers. If it can cut way back on that, it has a chance to rebound. Northfield, which beat JM 31-7 last year, has had one good game and one not-so-good game. It beat Austin 35-7, then lost 35-6 to Mayo.

Pine Island at Lourdes, 7 p.m. Friday: These teams are quite familiar with one another, after meeting in two of the final three games of the 2021 season. Lourdes topped the Panthers in the regular-season finale, 42-0, then did so again six days later in the Section 1AAA quarterfinals, 28-0. Prior to last season, the teams had not met since 2018 — when the Eagles also beat the Panthers twice. In fact, Lourdes has won 15 consecutive meetings against Pine Island, dating back to 2006. The Panthers last beat the Eagles nearly 17 years ago to the day, a 27-3 win at Pine Island on Sept. 16, 2005. The current groups of Eagles and Panthers come into Friday's game on positive notes. Lourdes picked up its first win of the season last week, topping St. Charles 24-7. Pine Island, meanwhile, suffered a narrow 14-12 loss to Lake City. The Panthers' defense was stout against Lake City, holding it to just 167 yards of total offense.

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