NEW ULM - Week 6 of the local high school football season means that playoffs are just around the corner.
This week's games see both the Eagles of New Ulm High School and the New Ulm Cathedral Greyhounds on the road trying to build off of wins last week. The Minnesota Valley Lutheran Chargers are the only New Ulm team at home this week.
New Ulm (1-4, 1-2) at Waseca (2-3, 0-2), 7 p.m. Friday
This game could well be a battle between New Ulm's Isaiah Johnson and Waseca's Brock Kolander.
Last week against St. James, Johnson tied a New Ulm High School single game touchdown record with five. That mark was set in 1970 by Don Johnson in a game against Blue Earth.
This week the focus of both teams' defenses may well be to stop the other team's ground game.
"They have Brock Kolander, and he is probably one of the best running backs in the South Central Conference," said New Ulm head coach Tony Ortmann, who got his first varsity football coaching win last week. "We felt coming into the season that they were one of the favorites in the conference, but they have struggled a few times this year. But they do have some of the best all-around backs in the conference, so we need to cause some confusion up front against their offensive line."
Ortmann said that Kolander has a little more size than Johnson in comparing the opposing backs.
"Isaiah is a quick back, while Kolander was one of the top runners for Waseca in track," Ortmann said. "He was also part of the 4x100 team, so they have some speed in their backfield in three of their four running backs. They have some weapons back there."
According to Ortmann, Waseca has begun to mix up its run-pass ratio in recent weeks.
"They have done more passing than they have in the past, but I think that they want to go back to a running team," Ortmann said. "I am anticipating a smash-mouth game on both sides of the ball."
While the Eagles' defense will try to shut down the Jays' running attack, Ortmann feels that Waseca will watch last week's New Ulm game film and try to take away Johnson and the perimeter running game.
"The thing that we have done well is to balance our running game between Isaiah, Jackson Yackley, Grant Kannegiesser and MacKenze Vogel," Ortmann said. "That gives us an advantage having that balanced attack. They are going to have to stop Isaiah, but they are going to have to work on stopping the other three also. Johnson's big game could open up holes for the others. If you are trying to stop the perimeter game, it is hard to stop the interior game."
With both teams focusing so heavily on running the ball, turnovers could become a big factor in determining the outcome of the game.
"When you run the football, turnovers will be a big part of the game," Ortmann said. "We need to force those turnovers like we did last week."
New Ulm Cathedral (3-2) at Cedar Mountain/Comfrey (1-4), 7 p.m. Friday
New Ulm Cathedral head football coach Denny Lux feels that Cedar Mountain/Comfrey "has redirected their offense a little bit - they are running the ball more lately."
"In the past they have been more of a heavy throwing team, but I think that we are going to see more of a 50-50 as far as run-pass goes," Lux said. "So we are going to prepare for the run and pass with the spread offense. At this time of the season we have seen quite a bit of the spread offense, but we also have seen quite a bit of the 'I' formation. We got tested real well last week against Wabasso. They ran the ball real well."
If the Cougars do go to the spread offense, Lux said that his defense must react accordingly.
"The big thing for us is to get matched up with their different players," Lux said. "They do have good speed, so we need to get matched up correctly. But we still need to be able stop the run, because they will always have one back in the backfield."
Lux said that special teams may play a big part in Friday's contest.
"They have done real well on some of their kick-off returns and they have a nice punt return scheme going," Lux said. "So the kicking game will be key in not letting them get any major returns."
Going into the Greyhounds' sixth game, Lux said that he has been happy with the progression made by sophomore quarterback Collin Helget.
"I was pleased with Collin last game," Lux said. "We had a couple of guys open early in the game that he missed, but come crunch time we drove the ball 70 yards for a score to respond to their score. Collin made some real nice throws under pressure, I thought that he was able to keep his composure and throw the ball well. That was big for him and the team to gain that confidence."
Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity (4-1, 2-1) at Minnesota Valley Lutheran (2-4, 1-3), 7 p.m. Friday at Johnson Field
For the Minnesota Valley Lutheran Chargers, Friday night's game with the Bulldogs caps a three-game stretch against ranked teams.
First it was Blooming Prairie, then Faribault Bethlehem Academy.
Now the foe is Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity.
"They are rated in the state and are playing good football," Chargers head coach Jim Buboltz said.
The Bulldogs' offensive philosophy is very simple.
"They will pound the ball," Buboltz said. "They are a very physical team. They are even more physical than Faribault BA. They are big, strong and have speed in the backfield, so it will be a big challenge for us."
In order to prepare his team for its third tough team in as many weeks, Buboltz has been talking to his players about execution.
"It is not so much as what they do, but what we need to do better," Buboltz said. "Instead of scheming for what your opponents do, we are just trying to do what we do better. That is what we have to work on, and we have to work on that a little bit harder than we did last week."
The best defense is a good offense, and that will mean a solid running game for the Chargers that keeps the ball out of the hands of the Bulldog ground assault.
"We need to maintain our blocks on offense," Buboltz said. "Games are won and lost on the lines. We need to do better there."
Buboltz and the Chargers knew that this part of the schedule was going to be the toughest part of the season.
"We know that we are better than we played last Saturday," Buboltz said. "We have the opportunity to get back on the field and show that we are better football team than we showed."
Because of the "Zero Week" in which the Chargers opened their season a week earlier than most other high school football teams, MVL will have a "bye week" next week before its final regular season game of the year at United South Central, whom the Chargers played in the first game of the season.
Buboltz said that the open week will be time for his team to get rested for that game at USC and the playoffs.
"The open week is something that the kids looked forward to, so hopefully that means they will put everything out there Friday," Buboltz said.