NFL fans saw a marquee matchup Sunday pitting two unbeatens, the New York Jets and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, against each other.
Area high school football fanatics will get much the same when the Pine River-Backus Tigers face off against the Walker-Hackensack-Akeley Wolves.
The game, scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday at Pine River, will feature a host of backfield talent but will be controlled at the line of scrimmage where Tigers head coach Randy Schwegel hopes guard Josh Brown and tackle Dustin Alexander make their presence known.
"There unknown guys," Schwegel said. "They both have been doing a good job for us. They're really new guys who haven't been tested. They'll have a big job in helping us move the ball.
"We'll look at some different blocking assignments and review some things that have been successful against Walker in the past. We're going to add a few things but not a whole lot."
In the last two games the Tigers ( 3-0 in the North Star Conference, 4-0 overall) haven't allowed a point in blanking Cass Lake-Bena Friday 42-0 and Bagley 52-0 Sept. 15. One reason for their stellar play has been the emergence of Brown (5-foot-11, 215 pound senior) and Alexander (6-0, 170-pound junior).
"I think they needed some time to work together," Schwegel said about his line as a whole. "They just needed to get their calls down, get the assignments correct and get the right reads against the defenses.
"They were a little passive at the beginning. We've cranked it up a notch and put some challenges on them. They've been able to focus on that."
The Wolves come into the game with a 3-0 conference and 4-0 overall record. They've beaten East Central 15-9, Blackduck 46-21, Cass Lake-Bena 30-14 and Bagley 62-0 and are ranked fourth in Class AA. Their only regular-season loss last year came at the paws of the Tigers, 27-6.
With last year's leading rusher in the conference, Jesse Dennison (1,255 yards on 114 carries and 15 touchdowns), the Wolves will look to overcome the Tigers.
"He's obviously going to be a key for our defense to read," Schwegel said. "It's just a matter of people doing their assignment.
"Dennison will come through the line and he cuts against the grain so well. He's quicker than anyone we've seen."
Prediction: Tigers 28, Wolves 12 (W-H-A has only scored six points the last two years against the Tigers and although PR-B lost heavily to graduation it didn't rebuild -- it reloaded.)
Tennis -- Who's the best No. 1 singles tennis player in the area? After this week ask Aitkin foreign student Catherine Ceulemans who faces off against Ashley Meschke and the Pequot Lakes Patriots today and on Thursday takes on Amy Peterson and the Staples-Motley Cardinals. Ceulemans already has faced Pierz's Melissa Girtz and Crosby-Ironton's Amy Gaviglio. Luckily, she won't face Mikaela Schmitt of Wadena-Deer Creek, which the Gobblers don't play this year.
Volleyball -- The Staples-Motley Cardinals have quietly had a successful season. At 9-5 overall and 2-0 in the Mid-State Conference the Cardinals face off against Bertha-Hewitt today and Frazee Thursday. The Cardinals are riding a nine-game win streak into this week thanks to the play of junior setter Nicole Bender who has been setting up big hitters (Stephanie Rice 13 kills against Fergus Falls Thursday, Michelle Honek six and Rachel Landecker five). Bender had 20 set assists in the 3-2 win over the Otters.
Football -- The Little Falls Flyers (2-2 overall, 1-2 in the Central Lakes Conference) go up against the Rocori Spartans (3-1 and 2-1) Friday to try and move up the standings.
The Flyers will take their balanced offensive attack into Cold Spring after coming off a big 13-2 win over St. Cloud Tech, whom they hadn't beaten since 1993. The Flyers will rely on Ryan Olson for their ground assault and David Sperl and Nate Miller for their air game.
Little Falls' defense allowed Tech only 165 yards total offense. The Tigers score on a safety.
"They have good running backs," Flyers coach Jack Marmon said of Tech. "We thought their line was going to be down this year because they graduated a lot from last year but it's not. They just reloaded."
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