KMS battles Royalton for state title today

MINNEAPOLIS -- To win the state Class A football championship, Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg must defeat one of the two teams that beat it in the regular season.

MINNEAPOLIS -- To win the state Class A football championship, Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg must defeat one of the two teams that beat it in the regular season.

The Fighting Saints (11-2) will face Prairie South Conference rival Royalton (12-1) at 1 p.m. today at the Metrodome, one of three games today during the two-day Prep Bowl.

Royalton beat the Saints 22-7 on Oct. 3, giving KMS a 4-2 record and knocking them from the AP's Class A poll. It was the second straight loss for KMS.

"Part of losing to them the first time is learning what we need to do better," said KMS head coach James Cortez. "They're a good team. They are so balanced."

Neither Cortez, nor Royalton head coach, Joel Swenson, believe there will be too many surprises between the teams.


"I believe at this point in the season you have a really good idea of what you can and cannot do," said Swenson. "Playing 13 games gives you a pretty good idea of what you want to do with the football. We played KMS on Oct. 3, with them coming off of a tough loss to OTC, and it was our homecoming night. So while that game was important, it has little bearing on this game. KMS played in a very tough section and will surely be ready for what I anticipate to be a really good game."

Royalton brings a steady dose of the ground game, along with an air attack as a complement.

Sophomore Zack Lanners leads the Royals with just over 1,500 yards and has scored 19 touchdowns. As a receiver, he has 28 catches for 610 yards and nine TDs. Senior Ryan Wiener fell just shy of 1,500 yards and leads the team with 21 TDs.

"It makes us more balanced on offense," Swenson said of the dual threats at running back. "Teams cannot focus on shutting down one guy. They are different runners as well. Wiener is a bigger more physical back, where Lanners is faster and better in the open field."

Lanners ran for 116 yards and scored two touchdowns when the teams met earlier in the season. Cortez said the Saints have learned a lot about what they need to accomplish to hold the Royals down.

"We handled their up-front kids well, but we have to do a better job of getting to their linebackers and turning those four to five yard gains into eight to nine yard gains," he said. "We definitely need to get to that next level of defenders with our blockers."

And just as in the other postseason games, Cortez stressed the need to force Royalton into third down-and-long type situations.

"The first game we played, we did a pretty good job of getting them into third-and-longs, but we let them out of it," he said. "We need to keep them on their side of the field. We need to contain them and not let them go for 70 yards."


The only other thing different about this match-up is the two-week break between the semifinals and the championship game. Traditionally, the Prep Bowl is held on the day after Thanksgiving, which is the week after the semifinals. But with the Minnesota Gophers playing their season-finale in the Metrodome last Saturday, a two-week delay was needed.

The two coaches had differing views on the break.

"In this case, I would say the break is too long. Since we are playing a known conference opponent instead of a team we may have never played before, the challenge is staying focused during the long break," Swenson said. "We know KMS personnel and playmakers; we have an idea of what they want to do on defense. A two-week break would have been more of an advantage for both teams, had we been playing a new opponent."

"I thought it wasn't bad. With us, all we did is condition the first week and work out some basic stuff," Cortez noted. "This week, we had a regular game-prep week. Last week, we couldn't get outside and had to practice in the gym. I don't know if it hurts you, because we couldn't get outside. I would have felt a little unprepared if we would have had to play last Friday."

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