While change is good, a few things don't change and that suits the Verndale Pirates football team just fine.
For the second straight year, the Pirates head into the final regular-season game with a 7-0 record. A win over Chokio-Alberta/Herman-Norcross 3:30 p.m. Wednesday at Verndale would produce another unbeaten regular season, and a possible top seed in the Section 4, Nine-Man playoffs.
The Pirates are riding a 20-game win streak after last year's 13-0 season. The defending state champions have outscored opponents 276-73 this season including last week's 42-0 romp over Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley.
Ranked No. 1 in the state poll all season, Verndale's closest game was a 22-13 win at Hancock. With the Pheasant Conference championship already wrapped up for the second straight year, Verndale is hoping to keep the unbeaten streak alive.
"This game is really important to us, not only for section seeding purposes, but just to keep the undefeated record going," said Pirates tailback Tyler Fisher. "They've beaten us in the past, but we would like to win and keep the streak going."
'Every game is a battle for us because everyone wants to knock us off.'
-- Tyler Fisher, Verndale tailback
Once again the Pirates will rely on a running game that gained 391 yards last week. Fisher led the attack, racking up 234 yards and three scores on 15 carries. The junior has 1,163 yards rushing and 13 rushing touchdowns.
Teammate Tyler Fuller has 345 rushing yards.
The Pirates aren't a one-dimensional team because of starting quarterback Cory Umland, who's amassed 595 yards on 51-of-91 passing.
The Pirates execute their two-pronged attack thanks to the offensive line. Led by Brent Mattson, Jason Kneisl and Bud Willis and ends Wyatt Carr and Eric Bramer, no foe has stopped Verndale
"Those guys up front are all strong and they open some real nice holes," said Fisher. "All the credit needs to go to those guys for all my yards. My job is to break tackles in the secondary, but those initial five yards is where it really counts and they do a nice job."
C-A/H-N comes into Wednesday's contest with 5-3 conference and overall records. Last week the Spartans fell to Hillcrest Lutheran Academy 28-18.
"We know they have three losses," said Fisher. "Hillcrest beat them with the pass and we hope to break them down with the pass.
"We knew at the beginning of the year, and (Verndale coach Mike Mahlen) reminded us, everybody is always gunning for Verndale, but even more so this year. Everyone wants to knock off the No. 1 team. We can't lay down any game. Every game is a battle for us because everyone wants to knock us off."
Pequot controls fate
With a win at Bagley 5 p.m. Wednesday, the Pequot Lakes Patriots could wrap up their first North Star Conference championship. The Walker-Hackensack-Akeley Wolves beat Lake of the Woods last week 21-8 to give Pequot control of its destiny.
Because Pequot (6-1 conference, 7-1 overall) beat W-H-A 35-10, the Patriots own the head-to-head edge with the Wolves, who also own a 6-1 conference record.
If the Patriots beat Bagley, they would probably receive the sixth seed in the Section 8, Class 3A playoffs and would play the third seed. East Grand Forks should earn the top seed while Crookston and Perham are tied for No. 2. Warroad is currently fourth followed by Roseau (fifth) Park Rapids (seventh) and Pelican Rapids (eighth).
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