It isn't rare for prep football teams to face each other twice in one season.
Usually they'll play against each other once in the regular season and again in the playoffs.
But the situation confronting the Staples-Motley Cardinals and Wadena-Deer Creek Wolverines is unique. The two will square off 7 p.m. Friday in Wadena for the second time in the regular season.
When Perham left the Northern Lakes Conference before the start of this season, both schools were left with an open date on their schedules. The teams filled the date with games against each other.
Friday's sequel will be considered the conference matchup for both teams.
It's W-DC's homecoming and the Wolverines are seeking revenge over their rivals from the east, who won the first contest 30-0 Sept. 5. The Wolverines (1-2 conference, 3-3 overall) are healthy and coming off an overtime victory over Park Rapids.
W-DC coach Ryan Kapping challenged his team during the second half of that game and it responded. He's hoping more confidence is the result heading into Friday's game.
The Cardinal secondary has been depleted with the loss of cornerbacks Joe Smith and Beau Pilgrim. Cardinals coach Ryan Beachy said S-M (2-2, 4-2) is down to two corners. Andy Mertens could move to corner but Beachy hopes he doesn't have to make that move.
Despite the secondary losses, the Wolverines don't throw the ball well. Sophomore quarterback Andrew Stearns has taken over for senior Brett Hieb at quarterback. This season Stearns is 14-of-49 for 181 yards. He threw two touchdown passes, including the game-winner, last week. He connected with Hieb on a 10-yard touchdown pass.
"We moved Brett to receiver and it's been a good move," said Kapping. "He gives us a little more athleticism at receiver. Andrew has pretty good command of our offense and he's shown good leadership as a sophomore."
Despite the close score, W-DC ran up and down the field against Park Rapids. The Wolverines were able to rush for 197 yards with senior Matt Sweere's 117 leading the way. Kapping is hoping to get W-DC's running game going Friday. They were unable to do run the last time the teams played.
"We need to get better on putting bodies on their bodies, especially (Adam) Johnson in the middle," Kapping said. "He can run from sideline to sideline so well and they do a good job of protecting him."
Beachy is hoping for a performance similar to the one he saw in Staples. The Cardinals held W-DC to 94 rushing yards.
"Our offensive and defensive lines have to have a good game," said Beachy. "Their lines are good, quick and athletic and if we come out flat, they're going to take it too us.
"If Wadena dominates our defensive line then it's over. If they're pushing our defensive lineman into our backers and we're tackling them five to seven yards beyond the line of scrimmage we're done."
The Cardinals have struggled lately. They stumbled in a 16-14 loss to Crookston, then lost to East Grand Forks 32-22. Beachy said his team hasn't lost confidence but said it was too confident heading into the defeats.
He's hoping his team doesn't overlook W-DC. He knows the Wolverines will be ready and S-M has added a few wrinkles to its game plan.
"Defensively, we don't do a whole lot different ever," said Beachy, "We might change some blitzes and stunts to cover up things that didn't work the previous game.
"We've added a few new plays this week and last and we'll run those against Wadena."
Kapping said the Wolverines have also been inconsistent with their play. But they haven't changed much in their game plan. They just hope to do their job better.
"We missed a lot of our assignments and they were able to exploit us because of our mistakes," Kapping said. "If we can correct our mistakes the outcome will be different."
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.