NEW ULM - It's an old adage in football that defense wins championships.
That theory will be put to the test on Friday as New Ulm Cathedral will battle Barnesville in the Class A State Championship at the Metrodome. The Greyhounds (12-1) face the unbeaten Trojans at 1 p.m. in search for their first-ever state championship. Cathedral finished second in 2006.
Senior Defensive End Evan Walterman and junior Safety Nick Simon are among the leaders of the defense that prides itself on its cohesiveness. The Greyhounds have given up an average of 11.5 per game while the offense averages 37 points per game.
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
Defensive end Evan Walterman (left) and safety Nick Simon are a big part of the New Ulm Cathedral’s defense.
For more photos of this event, go to cu.nujournal.com
"We play together pretty well," Walterman said. "Me and Luke Herzog, the defensive tackle, and Pat Bock, we can kind of tell what the other ones are going to do. We try to push the running back toward the other guys so we know what we are going to do. We work together pretty well and I know the secondary works well together."
The defense has been a strong point for the Greyhounds all year. But against Minneota in the semifinals, the Vikings managed to put up 33 points against the Greyhounds, the most allowed by them all year.
The Greyhounds survived after rallying from a two-touchdown deficit to win late in the game.
"Offensively and defensively we made some adjustments and no one really panicked," Walterman said. "Everyone knew that we had a lot of work ahead of us to win that game, but we kept plugging away and kept playing hard things just started going our way."
Walterman said that the defense is usually in sync with each other and react on what the other players are doing.
"It's always good to know that the secondary, they're tough and they get a lot of interceptions in every game," Walterman said. "So it's always good to know as a defensive end, I always try to get a lot of pressure on the quarterback to try to make him make a bad pass, and I know I don't have to focus on sacking the quarterback every time."
The only blemish on the Greyhounds' record this year came at the hands of Springfield, which defeated the Greyhounds in the season opener. Cathedral avenged that loss in the Section 2A title game en route to 12 straight wins.
"After the first loss, we knew we had to really work hard and get things going," Simon said.
Last year, the Greyhounds were unbeaten going into the state tournament, but they lost in the quarterfinals to Blooming Prairie. This year, they defeated Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City in the quarterfinals 47-18 before edging Minneota 34-33 in the semifinals at the Metrodome last Saturday.
The loss to Blooming Prairie last year was tough, and the Greyhounds wanted to get back to state this year.
"We were all pretty shocked and pretty sad that we lost to Blooming Prairie last year," Walterman said. "It's always hard to lose, especially when you put in a lot of work in the offseason."
Simon's role was different last year, but he's stepped up big for Cathedral this year.
"I just followed most of the seniors, but this year I stepped up and helped lead the team along with a lot of the seniors," Simon said.
Walterman moved to New Ulm prior to the 2007 school year, so he didn't get to see the 2006 state championship game with his current teammates. But Simon was in the stands when all of that excitement took place and he dreamed of one day getting there himself.
"Me and my friends always went to the games and always played football on the sidelines and watched," Simon said. "They set the role for us and them being at the Dome gave us something to strive for and it was kind of like our goal."
In order to win the first state championship in school history, the Greyhounds have to get past Barnesville. Like the Greyhounds, the Trojans like to run the ball and do it often.
Prior to last Friday's semifinal game, Zach Hochhalter led the Trojans in rushing with 832 yards and 11 touchdowns and Austin Martz had 531 yards rushing and seven touchdowns. Colby Braton had 765 yards rushing and nine touchdowns.
Quarterback Robbie Strand had 996 yards passing and 17 touchdowns prior to the semifinal game.
Friday's game will be the 14th of the season for Cathedral and it will be hoping to win its 13th game in a row. Regardless, it's an opportunity none of the players will soon forget.
"It's such a great feeling," Walterman said. "It's something that ever since you were little you always think about it. You watch movies about it, and it's almost like a dream, like I get to play in for a state championship in my senior year."