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After 0-3 start, ACGC season turned around

ST. PAUL -- Even though the Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City football program graduated numerous contributors from last year's 10-1 squad, many thought the Falcons could advance to the section championship again. The only difference, however, is that it would be in Section 4A not 5AA where Eden Valley-Watkins is the undisputed champion.

The Falcons (6-4) will be playing for a berth in the state tournament for the fifth time in six years today when they take on top-seeded Saint Bernard's (6-3) at 7 p.m. at Hamline University in St. Paul. ACGC's last appearance at the state tournament was back in 2001 when it topped Windom for the Class AA title.

"One of our focus points at the start of the season was to get better through the first eight games and be ready for the playoffs partly because we thought we had a chance to do some damage in our section," said ACGC coach Terry Karlsgodt.

The thought of doing some damage in the playoffs might have seemed a long shot for the Falcons at the start of the season as they were outscored 105-12 in their first three games.

"Our first three losses reflected a lack of experience, lack of identity and lack of confidence," said Terry Karlsgodt. "The kids however showed pride, kept believing and worked hard."

The Falcons started to turn their season around when they rolled past Minnewaska 42-21 in Week Four. ACGC gained 432 yards of offense in 79 plays and had Erik Whitcomb (180) and Mitch Tauer (147) rush for a combined 327 yards. A week later ACGC blanked Lac qui Parle Valley 14-0.

"Against Minnewaska the kids began to catch a vision of what could be," said Karlsgodt. "In the LQPV game our defense began to show some growth as they shut out a team that at that point was 3-1."

ACGC then fell to Yellow Medicine East, but Karlsgodt said his team didn't let the loss get to them.

"We had a great chance to win that game, but again we did many good things against a good team. The kids were able to recognize in disappointment the progress and positives, so we came away with good things despite getting beat."

Since then the Falcons have won four straight and are averaging 32 points and 315 rushing yards a game, thanks in large part to last week's 61-6 drubbing of Saint Agnes in the section semifinals.

"Saint Bernard's has some very talented athletes and they have a lot of speed as well as size," said Karlsgodt. "Its lineup is pretty solid from its best player down to its 11th man. On paper they have decisive advantages, but we feel we have found our identity and are understanding our schemes. We are certainly enjoying the ride and hopefully somehow we can find a way to keep the journey going."

What a journey it's been.

Jesse Fuchs
I have been with the Tribune since the summer of 1998. I enjoy covering the high school aspect of the business and designing pages.
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