Prep Football: Battle of unbeatens
A battle of unbeatens always features a buzz of excitement, and this week's matchup between BOLD and Minnewaska is no different.
Both teams enter as the area's last remaining undefeated teams and both have arrived with 3-0 records, staunch defenses and strong running games.
That's not to say these teams are mirror images, however.
The Warriors entered the season with high expectations after bringing back nearly all their skill position players, including sophomore quarterback Jordan Sagedahl, sophomore running back Gavin Vosika, junior running back Hayden Tersteeg and senior running back Austin Einerson, as well as junior wide receiver Luke Ryan.
It would be a slight understatement to say the Warriors have lived up to expectations. Through three games, BOLD has averaged 43.3 points per game on offense while holding opponents to only 9.7 points per game, outscoring their opponents 130-29 while facing three teams that play in Class AA, a class higher than the Warriors. That level of dominance led BOLD to the No. 1 QRF ranking by Minnesota-Scores.net.
Minnewaska, on the other hand, entered this season with a variety of questions marks following a 2-7 record in 2016.
The 2017 Lakers look a lot more like the 2015 Laker team that went to the Class AA state tournament. They feature a staunch defense and power running game. Minnewaska has allowed only 6.7 points per game—tied for the second-lowest in Class AA—while averaging 24 points per game on offense.
This early season resume has helped push the Lakers to a No. 5 QRF ranking.
Second-year head coach Jeremy Christensen says experience and a slight change to the defensive scheme has helped his Lakers come a long way since last year.
"Last year we had a lot of guys playing their first varsity games and they had to learn a new system and deal with a new coach," Christensen said. "Last year was not the year we were hoping to have. We had a lot of guys jumping in headfirst on both sides of the ball at the varsity level so there was a lot thrown in at once. But we returned so many kids from last year's team, so they've had another year under the system and a great home field."
This week's battle will take place at Minnewaska's new home field, a turf project that has been a couple years in the making. The construction of it cost the Lakers a true home field last season. They were forced to play home games at other locations, like Alexandria.
Though the field is new, much of the team is the same after graduating only seven seniors from last year's team. Senior quarterback Matt Gruber is still in the thick of things, also spending time captaining the defensive backs. Senior running back Ryan Christianson is also back with sophomore running back Garrett Jensen who each bring a combination of speed and strength to the position. Much of the offensive line also returned which helps Christensen's Wing-T offensive system that relies heavily on the run game.
"We're a run-heavy offense but we have athletes at other skill positions so we can strike when we want to," Christensen said, mentioning senior wide receiver Jackson Johnsrud. "We have a variety of running backs that can damage the other defense. We are about as balanced as we can be given our offensive scheme."
The makeup of BOLD and Minnewaska could create for an old-fashioned slobberknocker-style game. Though Christensen's team is technically a class above BOLD, he's quick to acknowledge the pedigree.
"That's a tradition-rich program," Christensen said. "They are the team that is competing for district and section titles every year. They don't really rebuild, they just reload. BOLD is not just a good team, they are a very good program. That's what we're striving for. Their tradition sets them up to be naturally confident. They know they're a team that can win every week."
Christensen also had high praise for Sagedahl, a sophomore quarterback in his second year under center for the Warriors, who now sports a 13-1 record in two years.
"(Sagedahl) may be the best quarterback in our league," Christenson said.
So far this year, Sagedahl has completed 25-of-35 passes for 547 yards and nine touchdowns with only one interception.
Last year's meeting went in BOLD's favor 26-0. That win started a three-game shutout streak for the Warriors. Christensen and the Lakers know they have quite the challenge ahead if they want to get a better result this year.
"I feel it's obviously the best team we've played so far this season and it could be the best we see all year," Christensen said. "It's definitely a challenge but we're confident in our abilities. We're ready for a game of this magnitude."