Improved teams prepare for section finals

NEW ULM – Sectional crowns in football will be on the line Friday for local teams as the playoffs continue.

In Sleepy Eye, the top-seeded Knights host No. 2-seeded New Ulm Cathedral in the Section 2A title game.

In Nicollet, the unbeaten Raiders host Madelia in the Section 2 9-Man championship.

SECTION 2A: No. 2 NEW ULM CATHEDRAL (7-3) at No. 1 SLEEPY EYE ST. MARY’S (10-0), 7 p.m. Friday

The last time these two teams met, it took three overtimes to determine a winner as the Knights came away with a 20-14 win.

“We feel very fortunate to be in the game with St. Mary’s,” said Cathedral coach Denny Lux. “We want to represent all of those teams that we have played this year to the fullest.”

Lux felt that both his Greyhounds and the Knights were hitting their strides at different times during the season.

“St. Mary’s has played solid all season long and we feel that we have been puttng a better team on the field game to game and it sure is lining up to be a very good football game for the sectional championship,” Lux said.

Lux said the teams’ first meeting during the regular season is history.

“Both teams learned things from it but I am sure that both teams will come out of the film sessions (of that game) with different ideas of what to do defensively and offensively,” Lux said.

Lux said the biggest boost that the first meeting gave to his players was the playoff atmosphere, especially for his younger players.

He also knows that both teams may add some wrinkles for this game.

“This game will come down to which team blocks and tackles the best,” Lux said. “That is what football is no matter what field you are playing on. It comes down to the basics. Both teams are looking at playing as solid as they can – a slip here or there could make the difference in this game.”

Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s coach Brent Kucera felt that his team would be meeting the Greyhounds again in the playoffs.

The Knights, who have won by an average of 25.9 points in their 10 wins this season, felt that the key to the first win was the play of their defense.

“They played tough in keeping them off of the scoreboard,” Kucera said. “Our offense struggled a lot in that game.”

Kucera said his team’s strength this season has been its physical play of the linemen.

The Knights also have the ability to put points on the board. Last week against Springfield, St. Mary’s won 46-0.

The Knights’ defense is second in Class A in points allowed this year with 8.0 per game.

Kucera said that he was a little surprised that his team was able to put up 46 points against Springfield.

“But sometimes you get lucky with some plays and things just go your way,” Kucera said.

Kucera said his team has improved since their first meeting with the Greyhounds. He also said that last year’s team is different from this year’s squad.

“Last year we were an athletic, fast team and this year we are more of a physical, strong team,” Kucera said.

He feels that the one key to this game will be turnovers.

“We have been very good in not turning the ball over all season,” Kucera said. “We need to execute well Friday.”

SECTION 2A, 9-MAN: No. 3 MADELIA (8-2) at No. 1 NICOLLET (10-0), 7 p.m. Friday

This season, the Nicollet Raiders have been an offensive machine, beating teams by an average score of 49-19.

Their closest contest was a 21-20 win on Sept. 6 against Madelia, which they will meet for the Section 2, 9-Man title on Friday.

“They are a nice club that both runs and passes the ball well,” said Nicollet coach Tom Murphy of Madelia. “They are very athletic. Our two teams were probably the two most balanced teams.”

Murphy said the key to Friday’s game will be limiting big plays, but controlling the line of scrimmage will also be just as big.

Over the past three seasons, the Raiders have compiled an 29-4 overall record.

“Our kids are aware of that and they want to carry on that tradition,” Murphy said.

Part of that winning tradition is the use of players.

This season, Murphy said that the Raiders had a few holes to fill.

“We only have three seniors and all three can do things for us,” Murphy said. “And we have some pretty talented juniors. We knew that we had a few holes and we had to figure things out. In the first few weeks we won but we were not playing great. We did make some changes – we still have the same nine kids starting but seven of them are in different positions from where they were back in Week 3.”

Murphy said the mindset of his team going into this game is one of being even-keeled.

“Our kids do not get rattled in any situation and they are pretty good about sticking to the task,” Murphy said.

Murphy said that this team has two outstanding players in running back Matt Christenson and quarterback Dalton Elliott.

“They are good but then we have Colin Bloemke who has played linebacker for us,” Murphy said. “We did not have anyone at that spot when the year started but he took that over and has been one of our leading tacklers all year.”

Murphy also was pleased with the play of defensive tackle John Scheurer along with Andrew Radke.

“They do not get their names mentioned as often but I always have felt that if I could have two or three very good players and the rest work hard with them we will do well,” Murphy said. “This year’s team fits that mold pretty well.”

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