Bethlehem Academy football 2018

Bethlehem Academy plays its home opener 7 p.m. Friday in a Mid Southeast White district matchup against Rushford-Peterson. (Faribault Daily News file photo)

3-and-out with the Rushford-Peterson Trojans

This is a 7 p.m. Friday Mid Southeast District matchup between two teams licking their wounds after facing district powers. Rushford-Peterson, from the East subdistrict, succumbed 46-0 at home to Blooming Prairie and Bethlehem Academy, from the West, lost 46-14 at Mayer Lutheran.

The Trojans, led by head coach Davin Thompson, are coming off a 7-3 season with a third-place finish in the subdistrict and a Section 1A semifinals appearance. R-P beat BA 66-20 the last time these two teams met Nov. 1, 2014 in the Section 1A finals.

R-P has had a winning record each year since 2012 and made the 2016 Class A state championship. Running back Noah Carlson, a 2018 graduate who recently flipped from University of Michigan track and field to University of Minnesota football, led the Trojans in recent years as one of the state’s top players.

When the Cardinals have the ball

BA is up against a defense that employs a 4-4 base defense with some 5-3 looks mixed in. The Trojans allowed 15.1 points in 2018 and haven’t allowed more than 20 to opponent since 2017, with exception to Blooming Prairie twice.

BA scored 19.9 per game last year.

R-P returns three all-district performers as well as another honorable mention. Senior defensive back Ethan Hermanson intercepted six passes last year. Senior defensive end Vinnie Mason had 19 tackles and two strip sacks. Junior Kobe Lind had 10 tackles and two interceptions. Senior honorable mention defensive back Triton Meldahl had 13 tackles.

Blooming Prairie piled up 485 yards with 273 coming through the air.

For BA, the key is cutting down on turnovers. The Cards had five last week, including two in the first quarter that helped Mayer Lutheran race out to a 20-0 lead after the first quarter.

That spells trouble for a team that prefers to control the ball and establish the run like BA. Josh Oathoudt eclipsed 100 yards rushing last week, though he and the offense didn’t get fully rolling until the game was out of reach.

Cleaning up blocking assignments on a new-look offensive line is also another area BA can improve.

When the Trojans have the ball

R-P is a run-first team. The Trojans will mix formations with men in motion often and some double shotgun looks.

They have two capable quarterbacks who could see time under center after graduating all-district selection Landon Skalet who threw for 1,134 yards and had a 2-to-1 touchdown to interception ratio. Both sophomore Malachi Bunke and junior Kobe Lind have the ability to tuck it and run if passing lanes aren’t there.

Meldahl expects to be the lead ball carrier. He split time with all-district 1,000-yard rusher Ethan Sense but still managed over 600 yards. Peyton Morrison could also tote the rock as a running back or fullback or split out at receiver.

The tight end Mason caught 13 balls for 155 yards and three touchdowns.

BA allowed 27.9 points per game in 2018. The Cards surrendered 402 yards of offense to Mayer Lutheran. Their defense was given few favors last week as far as the scoreboard goes having to defend a lot of short fields.

Key to the game

Just think about the next play. Both sides are eager to put last week behind them and get the season back on track. For BA, things snowballed quickly last week as a pick-six and a fumble return to the 1-yard line allowed Mayer Lutheran to surge ahead. Mistakes will happen to anyone at the prep level, so keeping them isolated and from dwelling are important to thrive in this matchup.

Coach says

”The key is we’ve got to stop those mental mistakes and we can’t turn the ball over. When we do turn it over, we’ve got to just react and go back out and play another down and not get down on ourselves when we have a bad play or have a turnover.” — BA head coach Jim Beckmann

Reach Sports Editor Mike Randleman at 507-333-3119 or on Twitter @fdnmike.

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