The New London-Spicer Wildcats take on a challenge they are familiar with, trying to beat a very tough Dassel-Cokato football team.
The Chargers finished second in the state in Class AAA in 2019, losing to Pierz 28-27 in the Prep Bowl.
D-C went 10-4. One of those losses, interestingly enough, was Sept. 20, 2019 at New London-Spicer. The Wildcats won 26-20.
The teams meet at 7 p.m. Thursday in Cokato. The game features two top-10 teams in the state, according to The Associated Press. D-C is ranked sixth in Class AAA. The Wildcats are 10th.
“We were fortunate to beat a very good team,” NLS head coach Dan Essler said of last season’s homecoming win.
NLS vs. D-C is one of six West Central Tribune area games Thursday. There are six more Friday in what is Week 2 of a six-week season shortened because of the coronavirus pandemic.
What made the D-C game last year notable is that NLS built a 20-0 lead while the Chargers operated out of the shotgun, spread formation. D-C went to a wishbone, option-style offense and their fortunes changed. They nearly beat NLS, of course, and clicked offensively the rest of the season.
Essler said the Chargers continued to run the wishbone in their 41-19 win last week at Holy Family Catholic in Victoria.
The big difference? Eli Gillman, who was D-C’s star running back last season, is now the quarterback.
He’s one of six starters back on offense. The news is more challenging on defense for the Wildcats. All 11 starters are back.
“They’re pretty nasty,” Essler said.
He meant it in a highly complimentary way.
“No, they’re not cheap or anything,” he said. “They’re really good athletes. I mean it in a very good way.”
NLS is coming off a 14-7 win at Watertown-Mayer. The Wildcats piled up 365 yards in offense, including 230 rushing on 45 attempts, led by Jack Novak’s 132 yards on 29 carries with one touchdown. Tim Thein rushed 11 times for 80 yards.
Quarterback Kyle Doty completed 11 of 22 passes for 135 yards and a TD. Five Wildcats caught balls.
Defensively, Anakin Haglund and Thein led NLS with seven tackles. Thein and Nick McKenzie recovered fumbles.
“I thought we played pretty well in spurts,” Essler said. “We didn’t finish some drives, failing to make the plays we needed to come up with more points.”
With a more consistent offense, Essler anticipates needing another big defensive effort against Gillman and the Chargers.
“We’ve got to play as well as we can,” he said. “We need to take care of the little things. They’re a really good team and we’ll need our best effort to beat a team that was state runner-up last year.”
MACCRAY is canceling its football game this week over COVID-19 concerns. The Wolverines’ volleyball match Lakeview on Thursday also has been postponed. MACCRAY volleyball coach Terese Bourne said Wednesday that Lakeview has had a positive test in its volleyball program. The Wolverines are scheduled to play Tuesday against Canby. That match is still on.
MACCRAY was to play football Friday at Russell-Tyler-Ruthton. Meanwhile, Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg, which was scheduled to play Parkers Prairie, will now play at 7 p.m. Friday at R-T-R. Parkers Prairie also has gone to distance learning.
Montevideo also is not playing sports for the second week in a row because of pandemic concerns.
Week 2 schedule
Litchfield at Watertown-Mayer, 1 p.m.
Willmar at Sauk Rapids, 5 p.m.
New London-Spicer at Dassel-Cokato, 7 p.m.
Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted at ACGC, 7 p.m.
Paynesville at Long Prairie-Grey Eagle, 7 p.m.
BOLD at Maple Lake, 7 p.m.
Benson at BBE, 7 p.m.
Rockford at Minnewaska, 7 p.m.
Dawson-Boyd at YME, 7 p.m.
LQPV at Lakeview, 7 p.m.
KMS at Russell-Tyler-Ruthton, 7 p.m.
Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s at RCW, 7 p.m.