Longhorns move on
Published on -10/31/2012, 10:30 AM
By CONOR NICHOLL
KENSINGTON - The Kensington-Thunder Ridge High School football team lost six starters on both sides of the ball from last year's 13-0 squad that won the Eight-Man Division II state championship.
Veteran coach Jerry Voorhees decided to change his offense from its usual two-back, power I-formation game to a one-back offense that Madison-Hamilton, the two-time defending Eight-Man Division I state champion, runs. Then the Longhorns lost by 46 points to Mankato-Rock Hills in Week 1.
"That first game was definitely weird, because no one knew what they were doing," Longhorn senior fullback Trevor Lowe said. "We practiced it for like a month, but we still hadn't gone against a good, solid defense with it, so we didn't really know what to expect."
After that, Voorhees went back to his usual offense, and the Longhorns have won nine straight contests by the mercy rule. That included a 58-12 home victory against Weskan in the first round of the Eight-Man Division II playoffs on Tuesday.
"That was kind of an experiment," Voorhees said. "We thought maybe we would catch Rock Hills really preparing for our I, and we thought that would try a little bit of what Madison does. Obviously, it didn't pan out very well. But Rock Hills had a good football team. We made some personnel adjustments and went back to what we know how to do, and obviously, it's been working."
The game was called with 40 seconds left in the third quarter because of the mercy rule.
"Growing up and playing for Coach (Roger) Barta over there (in Smith Center), obviously it's power football," Voorhees said. "It's what I believe in. It's what (Longhorn assistant) coach (Brent) Overmiller believes in. We got the kids that will run off the football and kids that will run hard."
Thunder Ridge had its usual punishing running game and aggressive defense, including 25 carries for 167 yards and three scores from Lowe, and 21 carries for 187 yards and three TDs from speedy sophomore running back Trent Rietzke.
"The I is definitely good," Lowe said. "We like it a lot better."
Rietzke rarely played last fall, but has taken over for Joel Struckhoff, eight-man's all-time leading rusher.
"Last year, he was against our defense and we had a really good defense last year," Lowe said. "It was fun watching him in practice last year, because he would juke them out. He was definitely good last year, but he took over Joel's spot this year and is doing really good."
Junior quarterback Garrett Krueger, the only sophomore to start last season, took over under center early this fall. He has completed 75 percent of 43 passing attempts had collected 61 total yards and a score Tuesday.
Junior Benton Hrabe played well on the line and delivered several textbook blocks on the left side that helped spring long runs. Defensively, he had two tackles for loss. Senior Chandler Hoskins recorded two quarterback hurries and a half a sack.
"They are big and physical and kept coming from everywhere," Weskan coach Marc Cowles said. "So, it was a struggle. I think we were outweighed and overmanned statistically on paper everywhere, but the kids played hard."
Thunder Ridge, ranked No. 5 in the classification in the statewide media poll at 9-1, will travel to fourth-ranked Otis-Bison (9-1) for the second round Saturday. This is the fourth time in the last three years the two squads have matched up, third occasion in the postseason. Weskan, which won just seven games in the last four years, enjoyed a five-win improvement this fall to 8-2.
Coyote senior quarterback Sam McKinney had passed for 1,232 yards with a 28/2 TD/INT ratio, but finished 6 of 20 passing for 152 yards and two scores. Weskan dropped three passes, including two that would have netted first downs, and McKinney narrowly missed connecting on several long throws.
The Coyotes, though, did score on the game's first play on a 55-yard TD pass from McKinney to junior Hayden Walker. The duo has connected a state-best 20 times on scores.
McKinney and Walker delivered a 68-yard TD pass in the third quarter and McKinney threw deep multiple times. Thunder Ridge played without 189-pound junior Derek Reed (concussion) but the secondary stepped up. Sophomore 135-pounder Derek Coomes had two pass deflections, including one near the end zone. Lowe and Krueger collected one.
"It was definitely a challenge," Lowe said. "We knew they were going to be one of the better teams that we were going to play this year. The (first) play I just wasn't ready. I guess I just wasn't thinking, but other than that, they just were throwing the deep ball pretty much every time. If you saw pass, you just got back."
After the first score, Thunder Ridge collected 428 rushing yards and scored on nearly every possession. The Longhorns took an 8-6 lead on a 17-yard score by Rietzke.
"I was little worried about how we would respond, but we I thought we come out and put a real nice drive together," Voorhees said.
"Boys responded well. We marched down the field."
Lowe, known for his punishing running style and big hits, tacked on a 1-yard run on the next possession to push the lead to 14-6. He has 1,195 yards and 22 scores this fall.
"I just try not to get tackled," Lowe said. "I don't really know how to explain it. Usually, I don't think. I just run."
Thunder Ridge scored four more times before the first half ended and led 42-6 at the break.
"I was real happy with the effort from the boys tonight," Voorhees said.