Game: Winona Cotter at Kenyon-Wanamingo, 7 p.m., Friday
Last week: The Knights struggled offensively in a 28-14 loss at NRHEG, while the Ramblers raced past Alden-Conger/Glenville-Emmons 34-16 in their first game Friday night.
Last matchup: These two teams last played in 2019, when Kenyon-Wanamingo blitzed Cotter for a 53-0 victory. Josh Schmidt, now a senior for the Knights, rushed for a pair of touchdowns in that game.
1. Speaking of Schmidt, he was the bright spot in Friday’s season-opening loss against NRHEG. Not only did the senior rack up 131 yards, but he was efficient with his 18 carries while averaging 7.3 yards a touch. Evan Brossard provided a nice secondary look with his nine rushes for 24 yards, but other than those two K-W totaled negative-38 yards on its other 11 carries. Eight of those touches and negative-37 of those yards were from sophomore quarterback Will Van Epps, since high school football uses sack yardage as part of the running game. Even so, the total of 38 rushes for 117 yards is a good base for the Knights to build off.
2. The missing piece in Friday night’s loss was the passing attack. In his first start under center, Van Epps completed only 4 of 15 passes for 20 yards and three interceptions. As a sophomore first-year starter, it’s not entirely surprising or troubling Van Epps struggled in his first game against a NRHEG team that features plenty of returning starters on the defensive side of the ball. Van Epps does have a pair of athletic seniors on the outside to throw to in Trevor Steberg and Laden Nerison, the goal now is to find ways to get the ball from Van Epps into their hands so the Knights can feature a more dynamic offense.
3. Defensively, Kenyon-Wanamingo faced perhaps one of the top running backs on its schedule in the first game of the year. NRHEG’s Andrew Phillips was named to the Class AA all-state team last season, and started the 2021 campaign by rushing 21 times for 75 yards — only an average of 3.6 yards a carry. He also only scored once, but NRHEG quarterback Porter Peterson was able to break loose for a pair of scores on the ground. After one game, it appears Cotter also features a similar style rushing attack. Brenin Speltz gashed AC/GE for 104 yards on 13 carries, but didn’t actually find his way into the end zone on the ground. Cotter quarterback Tate Gilbertson, though, picked up a pair of rushing touchdowns while gaining 31 yards on seven attempts.
4. That’s not to say the Knights don’t need to worry about Gilbertson as a passer, or that they can ignore Speltz out of the backfield on passing plays. The pair hooked up for three passing touchdowns last week, while Gilbertson completed 17 of 31 passes for 171 yards. In addition to Speltz, Luke Gardner hauled in seven receptions for 96 yards to pace the Rambler passing attack.