Scott Kolb: Road trip continues for Rebel Nation
Going to practice on a daily basis is usually a mundane affair for football players, but not if you're one of the teams still alive and vying for a section title later this week.
After suffering defeats in the semifinals of Section 2AA during three out of the last four years, the Southland Rebels finally made it out of that round this session. Moving down to Class A, the Rebels have won by lopsided margins in their two playoff games.
When the team is winning post-season games and everything is clicking, then it must be fun to report to practice. When I talked to Rebels running back Tyler Kressin after last Saturday's win over Fillmore Central, he couldn't wait to get back on the practice field for another week.
Planning strategy is part of the fun for those in charge and now, Southland head coach Shawn Kennedy sets his sights on top-seeded Blooming Prairie. In past years, the coach has lamented that his team couldn't get out of the second round, but that's not the case anymore.
Defense wins titles
The main reason that Kennedy and his Rebels team are still playing is a hard-nosed defense. The Southland defense hasn't been scored upon during the first three quarters of either playoff win.
Banging heads all season with the tough competition in the Three Rivers Conference has made the Rebels defense a force on the field. These guys play a swarming type of defense which flows to the ball and creates big turnovers.
When the offense gets the ball to start drives on the opposition's end of the field, then the powerful ground game can take control. The defense of the other team is forced into the unenviable position of trying to stop a three-headed monster.
In the first quarter last Saturday night, the Rebels defense forced a pair of turnovers and the offense responded with two early touchdowns. With big guys like Jake Koenigs putting pressure up front, linebackers like Ben Wolterman can make interceptions. Wolterman has three interceptions in the two playoff wins.
What's even more fun to watch for those who stand looking on the sidelines is the way the Rebels show team unity. A few of the guys have changed positions and instead of moping around, they have figured out new ways to help the team win.
For the first six weeks of the season, Decker Bendtsen was the starting quarterback for the Rebels. In the second half of a loss to Fillmore Central during the regular season, Bendtsen was replaced by Jake Frodl.
The coach moved Bendtsen out to wide receiver and he's become one of the favorite targets for the new quarterback. Bendtsen is also the holder for kicker Lee DeHough, who was perfect on five extra point attempts in last weekend's win.
Wolterman started out the season as the fullback for the Rebels, but has since been moved into the line on offense. Since he no longer takes many hand-offs, Wolterman has figured out another way to get his hands on the ball and that's by picking off passes.
"There have been a lot of firsts for this team and the main reason we're still going is they all play together as a team," Kennedy said. "I love working with these guys, because they operate as a unit toward the common goal of winning a football game."
Land of Blossoms
Rebel Nation just came off their second road trip of the season to Del Elston Field in Harmony last weekend and Friday night, they travel to McFarlin Field in Blooming Prairie. This is a place rich in tradition as the Blossoms have been in the section finals a number of times.
While running the ball is the main motto of teams in the rugged Three Rivers, the Blossoms come at a defense from all directions. With starting quarterback Luc Zellmer once again running the offense, the Blossoms can put a lot of points on the scoreboard.
Their mascot is the caricature of a mean-looking flower and the "Awesome Blossoms" are a force to be reckoned with offensively, especially on their home field. I've had the pleasure of covering coach Chad Gimbel and his team on many occasions over the years and they always put on a good show.
Whether a football fan believes in "Flower Power" or sides with the Rebel Nation, it should be a great game on Friday night.