Game: Faribault (1-0) at Kasson-Mantorville (0-0), 7 p.m., Friday.
Last week: The Falcons started the season with a dramatic 30-28 victory in double overtime against Northfield, while the KoMets had their season-opener against Mankato East canceled due to positive COVID-19 cases.
Last year: Kasson-Mantorville scored early and often in a 55-6 victory in the final game of the regular season.
1. In last year’s matchup between these two teams, there was little the Falcons could do to slow down the KoMets on the ground. Out of 41 offensive plays, Kasson-Mantorville ran the ball 39 times for 374 yards and seven touchdowns. In a one-game sample to start the season, Faribault’s run defense has stiffened. Last week, Northfield rushed the ball 27 times for only 19 yards and its leading rusher, Charlie Monaghan, ran the ball nine times for only 28 yards. For the KoMets, many of the workhorses that powered the last year’s running-centric offense have graduated, with quarterback Peyton Wilke, running back Easton Knoll and running back Cade Spreiter all no longer on the roster.
2. Faribault will likely counter Kasson-Mantorville’s rushing attack with...more rushing. Against Northfield, Faribault was able to run the ball 35 times for 143 yards. It was mainly new faces for the Falcons as well, after senior Taylor Day was forced to exit the game with an injury in the first quarter and senior Alex Gardner was unable to suit up. In their stead, junior Elijah Hammonds emerged with 16 carries for 88 yards and a touchdown and junior Matthias Lenway spelled him with five carries for 13 yards. Junior quarterback Hunter Nelson also provided key yardage, especially in the second half, by totaling 31 yards on 13 carries. When factoring out plays in which Nelson was sacked or forced to fall on a fumble in the backfield or faulty snap, his rushing total doubles to 62 yards on the ground.
3. The other offensive key was Faribault’s passing attack. Nelson completed 11 of 24 of his passes for 104 yards and three touchdowns, and while that doesn’t impress at first glance, the perception changes when focusing after halftime. In the second half and overtime, Nelson completed 7 of 10 passes for 84 yards and three touchdowns. On a fourth-quarter drive in which Faribault scored to take a 14-7 lead with 5:05 remaining in regulation, Nelson accounted for 59 of the drive’s 84 yards and completed all four of his passing attempts for 45 yards, including a 21-yard touchdown pass to AJ Worrall.
4. A big reason Faribault was able to make it to overtime last week, and how it stayed close in a first half it accumulated only 70 yards of offense, was winning the turnover battle. The Falcons picked off Cole Stanchina twice in the first half. Four plays after the first interception by Ian Ehlers, Hammonds ran in the only touchdown of the first half for the Falcons from 16 yards out. The second interception by Gael Ramirez stopped what might have been a Northfield touchdown drive to end the first half before Ramirez came away with the interception on the goal line with 42.9 seconds remaining in the first half. In last year’s game against Kasson-Mantorville, Faribault turned the ball over three times and didn’t force any turnovers.