Glencoe-SL defense nearly inpenetrable this season
MINNEAPOLIS -- Glencoe-Silver Lake has had some great teams in the past, but this year's squad could be nominated for the best the program has produced in 16 years.
The top-ranked Panthers are undefeated, have posted eight shutouts and forced 42 turnovers while their offense has produced 52 touchdowns -- 45 on the ground -- in 13 games. In the five games GSL hasn't pitched a shutout, opponents have been able to come up with only five touchdowns.
"Never in a million years would I have thought we would have eight shutouts, let alone four," said GSL coach Scott Tschimperle. "Every week offensively we have good situations to make good things happen because of our defense."
The GSL defense might see its toughest test to date this season in New London-Spicer.
The Wildcats, also unbeaten at 13-0, will try to dethrone the three-time defending Class AAA champion. NLS averages 33 points a game, having scored 34-or-more points in a game seven times. The Panthers have given up only 36 points all season.
Defense has been a cornerstone for the Panthers' program ever since Glencoe and Silver Lake consolidated in 1994. Silver Lake fielded a successful program that generated two Class Nine-Man championships in the 1980s, but the pairing put GSL's enrollment in Class AAA.
Since then, GSL has went to 10 state tournaments and won the Class AAA championship five times.
"Ever since we consolidated (the coaching staff) made a decision to put our strongest players on defense," said Tschimperle. "Our kids don't have a weightlifting coach. We get great leadership from our seniors each year and kids in junior high can't wait to get to varsity someday."
GSL squads usually have close to 100 kids, but this year Tschimperle said it's been one of the smaller teams regarding numbers ("75-80" in grades 10-12). The Panthers never cut a player once practice starts in August and the team takes 20 minutes from each practice throughout the season to work on the game's fundamentals.
Even a team with those numbers has the luxury to have a player focus on just one position. GSL doesn't have a two-way starter and hasn't had one in a while, according to Tschimperle.
GSL started out the season by outscoring its first four opponents 130-0 and ended the regular season by notching another shutout. The defense then blanked its first two Section 3AAA opponents before surrendering a season-high 14 points to Fairmont in the section final. The Panthers sneaked by No. 2 DeLaSalle 6-3 in overtime in the state quarterfinals and another shutout followed in the semifinals, which put GSL in the title game for the seventh time.
"We are very happy with who we have," said Tschimperle. "Defensively, our front eight is close to the best we've ever had. We feel we play in the toughest conference in Class AAA (Wright County). We enjoy the challenge and I think playing in our league helps us out in the playoffs."
A bruising running game has also keyed GSL's success. Aaron Lueders has scored 27 times on the ground, while quarterback Kyler Anderson has rushed for seven touchdowns. The two have combined to gain 1,729 of the team's 2,833 rushing yards. NLS can get it done on the ground as well -- 2,703 yards, paced by Jake Essler's 1,080 yards and 14 TDs -- but it can also burn defenses with Jayme Moten's arm.
"That quarterback is quite an athlete," said Tschimperle of Moten. "I'm impressed with his poise and he has tremendous athletic ability to get out of a heavy rush and make things happen.
"They are a very good football team and hopefully we can control the line of scrimmage and contain Moten from making good plays. It's going to be a battle."