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TMP, Russell looking to turn things around

Published on -10/11/2012, 10:17 AM

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The season might not have gone as many Thomas More Prep-Marian football players would have liked, but that's in the past. Now, it's district play, and TMP first-year head coach John Montgomery said it's time to toughen up and showcase what they've learned through their adversity.

The Monarchs face Russell at 7 p.m. Friday at Lewis Field Stadium in their district opener.

"It's the first step toward making post-season play," Montgomery said. "It brings with it that extra level of excitement. This is our first step toward earning one more game."

The game will feature two 1-5 teams hoping to turn around their seasons.

Russell's only win has come against Republic County (0-6), while TMP's one win was against Ellinwood (0-6).

TMP has been outscored 238-99, while Russell has been outscored 288-90.

Russell head coach David King said his team hasn't place anymore emphasis on this game than any of its previous games.

"We treat every week the same," King said. "We are just doing our best to get prepared."

After getting clobbered the past two weeks by La Crosse (6-0), ranked No. 1 in the Class 2-1A statewide media poll, and Phillipsburg (6-0), receiving votes in 3A, TMP's players might be breathing a sigh of relief as they prepare for Russell -- a team in a similar position as them.

However, Montgomery said they shouldn't.

"As I look at Russell, I see a dangerous team," Montgomery said. "They are a team very similar to us. They are clawing and scratching to get better and give themselves an opportunity to be successful. The worst thing you can do is take a team like Russell or ourselves lightly."

The Monarchs could be without senior quarterback Shane Zimmerman and sophomore tight end/offensive and defensive lineman Cameron Fouts, who are game-time decisions for Friday.

Zimmerman suffered a high-ankle sprain against La Crosse, and Fouts dinged his knee against Phillipsburg.

"I wish I could give you a better answer than that," Montgomery said regarding their status.

If Zimmerman doesn't play, freshman quarterback Jared Vitztum and junior Taylor Wasinger could share snaps again under center, but Montgomery said Vitztum has received first-string snaps at practice.

Russell runs the wishbone, an offense TMP hasn't seen this season. The Broncos repeatedly hit teams with the run, averaging 176.3 yards per game, but also gash defenses with play-action passes. Russell averages 19.5 passing yards per game.

"It creates some unique challenges," Montgomery said.

Russell primarily uses a trio of running backs: senior Dylan Walker, freshman Chase Prester and junior Keltonn Morris.

"They are hard-nosed kids," Montgomery said. "They have a low center of gravity, and they are kids with a decent frame on them."

Walker actually started the year on the offensive line and played some tight end, but made the transition to the backfield after junior Riley Pfannenstiel got injured.

Walker now leads the team with 375 yards and three touchdowns on 54 carries.

"Dylan has been a great leader on the team and a good teammate for his other players on the team," King said.

Defensively, Montgomery said Russell runs a mix of 4-2-5 and 4-4 schematically.

For Russell, King said it will be a challenge to stop TMP's balanced attack.

"They do a lot of things well," King said. "They run a lot of different formations. They run the ball and pass the ball. The defense has to be very disciplined in what they do."

Montgomery said its gut-check time for his squad, because this game should be a physical one.

"The way Russell runs the wishbone is they have a double tight end -- 11 guys in the box," Montgomery said. "I told our kids that this game is going to come down to who is tougher."

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