Jake's Takes: Forecasting the fate of four prep football unbeatens
The referee just blew the whistle for the end of the first quarter of the season and he's ready for the second quarter to get underway but everyone is waiting for some kid to find his helmet because he swears he left it on the bench but now it's not there and it doesn't so much matter because he probably shouldn't be playing anyways.
I won't name names but this person's name rhymes with Make Hultz and may or may not be writing this article.
Well, whether I—wait, I mean, the forgetful player—is ready or not, the second quarter of the season is just about to get underway and that means the season is nearly half over, which means it's almost the end of the year, depending on your mental philosophy.
Nevertheless, with two games in the books, four area teams have kept track of their helmets and stormed out to undefeated records with hopes to keep the trend going. Let's see whether they'll do that, shall we?
BOLD is undefeated. Sure feels like OLD news, am I right? (Insert laughter here).
The Warriors are off to a 2-0 start for the third year in a row and it's part of a trend of regular-season dominance. BOLD has not lost a regular-season game in that time, period. Their last regular-season loss came all the way back before junior quarterback Jordan Sagedahl was even born—OK, not really, but it was a long time ago. You have to go all the way back to Sept. 18, 2015, in fact, when Montevideo bested the Warriors 12-6. In Olivia, no less.
BOLD lost three regular-season games that season and I'm going to go out on the sturdiest limb in a forest of sturdy limbs and say that won't happen this year. There's a BOLD-Minneota Section 5A championship rematch brewing and I have a hard time seeing anything preventing that from happening.
The Warriors are stacked with talent that happen to be experienced but also young. The aforementioned Sagedahl is a three-year starter at quarterback and in the offseason he went to the factory that makes BOLD athletes and picked out a new pair of legs for his junior season. He ran for a 75-yard touchdown in last week's 49-0 win against Osakis and ran 62 yards for a score on a perfectly executed option in a 30-20 win over Paynesville in week one.
Aside from Sagedahl, the Warriors have fellow junior, Gavin Vosika, who is less of a football player and more of a human manifestation of a spark plug. Senior running back Dawson Vosika is getting some run this year, too, rushing for a pair of scores so far this season. Much of the line is back as well, led by senior Riley Weis, and senior speedster Luke Ryan is catching passes on offense and defense this year.
Potential loss: Listen, if you told me Morris/Chokio-Alberta beat BOLD in the regular season finale or Minnewaska snuck in a win in week four I wouldn't call you a liar but I'd probably have to do some digging on my own. The Warriors are the heavy favorites in every game they'll play this regular season and, by the time this season ends, are likely to move to 27-0 in regular-season games since September 2015.
Los Tigres have come to play this season with one of the best offenses in the area. Morris/CA earned a 44-21 win to kick off the year against Holdingford and ran away with one against Montevideo last Friday, 49-21. Any discussion about the Tigers has to start with running back/quarterback/wide receiver/team destroyer Cam Arndt. The senior recorded the rare feat of compiling a passing, receiving and rushing touchdown in the same game against the Thunder Hawks and rumors are that doing so is a very good thing. In two games, Arndt has run the ball 22 times for 214 yards, good for an average of 9.72 yards per carry, and he's also caught five passes for 163 yards. Most importantly, though, this young individual is a touchdown machine. He's rushed for two touchdowns, three of his five receptions have gone for touchdowns and his one and only pass this season? An 11-yard touchdown pass.
Pair Arndt's athleticism with fellow athletes like quarterback Zach Bruns, running back Matt McNeill and Kenny Soderberg and the Tigers are a dangerous team with options. Morris/CA doesn't throw the ball often but they've been successful so far. Bruns went 4-for-7 last week for 143 yards and three touchdown passes and ran eight times for 51 yards as well.
Soderberg also adds a dangerous return element, having brought one to the big house for 90 yards in week one. In case you didn't get the gist of this: the Tigers are going to be fun to watch this season.
Potential loss: I've already mentioned the terror that looms in week eight with BOLD but the Warriors aren't the only team the Tigers have to worry about this season. Morris/CA travels to Grove City Friday to take on an ACGC team that had two very different games to start the year, leaving week three a bit of a puzzler. If the Tigers get past that, week five features a visit by Minnewaska who looked dangerous against the Falcons last week. The big question comes down to defense. The 42 points allowed so far this season doesn't look too bad but it doesn't look super good either. Any shot of keeping a zero in the loss column will likely come down to that side of the ball.
We interrupt your scheduled programming about dynamic offenses to bring you a team that silences other teams quicker than the librarian in "Monsters University." The Dragons have allowed just 14 points this year, defeating St. Cloud Cathedral 12-7 in week one and Holy Family Catholic 14-7 last Friday. Litchfield made the opening Friday of the season a nightmare for the Crusaders, jumping on five fumble recoveries and allowing just a single score late in the fourth quarter. Things weren't much better for Holy Family, who were picked off twice and relinquished a first-quarter lead.
Litchfield's rush defense has been particularly impressive, allowing just 137 yards on the ground so far in two games. In those games, opposing ball carriers have averaged just 2.36 yards on the ground and, hold on, let me check my math, yeah that's not good. It's not like Litchfield has given up much in the air either. So far, the Dragons have allowed just 254 passing yards and, again, no touchdowns with two interceptions.
Brandt Pederson owns one of those interceptions and he's been a monster on the offensive side of the ball, accounting for every point the Dragons have scored so far this season. He ran for a pair of touchdowns in each game, and converted Litchfield's only conversion of the season as well. He ran the ball 11 times for 71 yards in the season opener and broke the century mark with 127 yards on 18 carries in week two. Add in 109 passing yards over two games, and Pederson has accumulated 307 of his team's 454 yards of offense in two weeks, or 67.6 percent of the offense.
Pederson's numbers are staggering through two weeks but he has help. Running back Logan Nelson is off to a slow start but he, alongside Isaac Rick, are dynamic backs that can change the game at the drop of a hat. Rick logged 46 yards on nine carries in week one and Nelson ran 16 times in week two for 63 yards. If those two can find their stride, Litchfield should have plenty of fun this season.
Potential loss: This time last year, Litchfield was 1-1 with only 17 points allowed, just coming off a 17-14 week two loss to Holy Family. That week two loss proved to be part of a four-week slide and a 2-7 year as a whole. I say that to say, this is a good start for a Dragons team looking to improve. They have a tough rivalry battle at home this Friday against a similarly undefeated Dassel-Cokato team. Should the Dragons survive that and a week four battle with Annandale, then week five against New London-Spicer is the biggest potential loss. The Wildcat offense is terrifying, putting up 55 last week against the Crusaders. Then again, maybe the Dragon defense is exactly the kind of team to slow that offense down?
Hancock graduated two members of the Tribune All-Area First Team, a quarterback and a wide receiver, from a team that went 6-4 in 2017. So the Owls were supposed to be in a rebuilding year, right? Ding, dong, Jake is wrong.
Hancock is off to a 2-0 start with wins against Park Christian (20-12 in week one) and Rothsay (41-18 in week two). Park Christian didn't have a team a year ago so Hancock certainly entered that one as the favorite, but Rothsay won this matchup 52-40 in 2017 and the Owls just drubbed the Tigers in week two. People come to me expecting me to have answers and, man, it sure feels bad to disappoint people.
There are a couple of reasons the Owls have been particularly good so far, though, and it revolves around the plug-and-play philosophy. It's darn difficult to replace Kaleb Koehl, who threw for an area-best 2,202 yards last season and ran for another 1,367. And good luck trying to be the guy who replaces Noah Kannegiesser, a wide receiver who spun webs to catch balls instead of running routes, and tallied an area-best 16 receiving touchdowns and 1,199 receiving yards. Nevertheless, the Owls have some athletes up to the challenge.
Koehl graduates, Preston Rohloff enters. The sophomore slinger threw for 338 yards and six touchdowns in two games, completing 19 of his 32 passes for a 59.3 percent completion rate. Kannegiesser is gone but Brandon Kellenberger carries on the receiving tradition, as well as the customary long K name. He has 12 catches for 146 yards and four touchdowns to kick off the season.
Tyler Timmerman adds a wrinkle to the squad, too. The junior running back is off to a roaring start in 2018, highlighted by a 12-carry, 170-yard day against Rothsay on Friday. He also ran 10 times for 67 yards in week one, good for a total of 22 carries, 237 yards and 10.77 yards per carry so far.
Potential loss: Hancock should very well be 3-0 after this week's battle with Hillcrest Lutheran Academy but week four provides an interesting battle with Underwood. The Owls won that match last year 34-6 but Underwood is off to quite the start as well, outscoring opponent 94-6 in the early going. The real killjoy, however, is Verndale in week six. Verndale ended the Owls' season last year with a 61-18 playoff win and won the regular season matchup by the same score. Unless something changes drastically this year—like, I don't know, a junior running back who runs the ball efficiently—this game will be one to watch.