What can you expect from a team that hasn’t played a game in nearly a month?
That’s what Medford head coach Jerome Johannes and his staff face as the Tigers head into the Section 2AA playoffs against New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Medford.
The third-seeded Tigers (4-2) will be the first team to face the Panthers (2-1) since NRHEG went into quarantine following a COVID-19 positive case on the team. The Panthers couldn’t schedule a game in the last week of the regular season and haven’t played since Oct. 23 when they lost 27-12 to Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial.
Of course, Johannes and his staff have reviewed the film on NRHEG and one thing he knows for sure is the Panthers will have a lot of energy after having not played a game in more than three weeks.
“We know that they’re going to come out hungry,” Johannes said. The beginning of the game, we’re probably going to see some high intensity from them.”
Medford saw its three-game winning streak come to a halt Wednesday with a 30-15 loss to Triton in Dodge Center. The Cobras ran 65 plays in the game to just 28 for the Tigers, Johannes said. That’ll have to change for Medford Tuesday.
“Our defense has to get teams off the field and our offense has to get first downs and stay on the field,” he said.
Medford moved the ball well at times against Triton. Josiah Hedensten ran for 41 yards and caught five passes for 91 yards for the Tigers, including a 58-yard touchdown reception. Quarterback Josh Ristau finished 6 of 8 for 106 yards as Medford put up 168 yards of total offense.
NRHEG runs a spread offense with Kordell Schlaak under center. He’s completed 27 of 53 passes for 459 yards and six touchdowns. He’s found Bo Budach five times for 199 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Andrew Phillips has rushed for 160 yards and three touchdowns in three games.
The teams last met two years ago in the first round of the Section 2AA playoffs where the Panthers came away with a 42-20 victory in New Richland.
NRHEG head coach Marc Kruger said he can see his team coming out with a lot of energy, but he has faith in his upperclassmen to remain poised. The team got cleared to begin practice last Tuesday but got stormed out that day, leaving just three days of practice last week.
“I think it’s been tough on the guys,” Kruger said of the time away. “We had Google Meets and workouts online. They just wanted another opportunity to play.”
The Panthers come into the game following that loss in LCWM in a game that left a bad taste in the mouths of players, Kruger said. NRHEG has sought to create turnovers defensively and did not do so against the Knights. The Panthers also failed to stop LCWM on short-yardage situations.
Kruger knows his defense will have to stay disciplined against Medford, which relies heavily on Hedensten.
“The biggest thing is our 11 guys on defense have to follow our rules on defense,” he said.