The Staples-Motley Cardinals overcame numerous mistakes to beat a young Wadena-Deer Creek Wolverines 20-6 last year in Northern Lakes Conference football.
But last year was last year, however, as both teams are playing with lofty expectations this season. W-DC has a big, talented offensive line to block for a capable backfield. The Cardinals, coming off a successful 2002 campaign, have arguably the best quarterback in the area in senior Adam Johnson.
Both teams started the season with a win. The Cardinals annihilated Dassel-Cokato 62-22. Johnson threw for four touchdowns and 201 yards and rushed for 140 yards and two more scores. He threw touchdown passes to Paul Williams, Zachary Martin and David Frisk
"I think we have to be patient," said Kapping on how to stop Johnson. "We need to get after him a little bit. Dassel didn't do a great job of getting after him. We need to make him move and then tackle him. He's a physical quarterback and he's not going to slide or back down. We have to make sure we tackle him."
W-DC traveled to Pelican Rapids and came home with a 35-21 victory.
Cardinals head coach Ryan Beachy was impressed with W-DC. After watching film of their victory, he said the Wolverines looked as good as their conference championship team of 1998.
"That year they had one really good back," Beachy said. "The difference is they have four good backs. Their offensive line is even better than it was back then. I watched the tape, they pushed Pelican back five yards before anyone could touch the backs. It's not hard to figure out why they won.
"They do some different things on defense that I still have to figure out. I think our kids are going to be more prepared and ready to go since we know they are a very good team this year."
Beachy likes his offensive line as well and believes the Cardinals aren't just a Johnson showcase. He's hoping his line can battle W-DC's and continue the Cardinal's success.
"Our offensive line was just phenomenal Friday," said Beachy. "Dassel got through maybe two times and Adam just ran the ball then. Rushing-wise, we had 350 yards. It wasn't just a one-man show.
"We came out gunning. We didn't make many mistakes and we didn't have our usual turnovers. We average about seven turnovers in our first games. Friday, we didn't have any."
Beachy hopes the lack of mistakes continues. In last year's win over W-DC, the Cardinals, lost two fumbles and committed 10 penalties. But Kapping hasn't beaten S-M in his three years as a head coach.
Both teams know that whoever controls the line of scrimmage will win this conference game.
W-DC averages 220 pounds a man up front, but as Kapping points out the Wolverines are not just big, they're also athletic.
"Our lines did a good job against Pelican," said Kapping, "both offense and defense. We rushed for 368 yards on Friday and we held them to 58 yards rushing. Our backs are pretty balanced. A couple of guys rushed for over 100 yards and our fullback had 80."
With Perham leaving the conference, S-M and W-DC will play each other twice this season. For Kapping that isn't a concern. Neither is his team's character, which was something he has worried about the last couple of years.
Coming off an 0-8 season, picking up a season-opening victory was vital. Doing it in come-from-behind fashion was an added bonus.
"The last couple of years when we got down the team would fold a bit," said Kapping. "Against Pelican we got down early, but we were resilient, we got a score and continued to come back. Being behind in the past we would have been done. It didn't really affect us Friday."
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