PILLAGER -- For Pillager Huskies head football coach Pete Bothun the Class A state quarterfinal game against the Warren-Alvarado-Oslo Ponies at 7 p.m. Friday is a reunion of sorts.
Bothun is from the Warren area and knows a little about the Ponies. Warren-A-O runs a basic pro-I formation. But the weapons the Ponies have make it anything but basic.
"A lot of our offense is geared similar to the University of North Dakota and Nebraska," said Ponies head coach Scott Doss, a Walker-Hackensack-Akeley graduate. "We're tailback-oriented. We have a lot of other good people to go with that.
Class A State Quarterfinals
7 p.m. Friday
Murray County Central (7-4) at Dover-Eyota (8-3)
McLeod West (10-1) at Sleepy Eye (9-2)
Cook County (8-2) at Browerville (10-1)
Warren-Alvarado-Oslo (11-0) at Pillager (7-3)
Semifinals at Metrodome
10:30 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 16
Murray County/Dover-Eyota winner vs. McLeod West/Sleepy Eye winner
10:30 a.m. Friday, Nov. 17
Cook County/Browerville winner vs. Warren-Alvarado-Oslo/Pillager winner
Championship at Metrodome
11 a.m. Friday, Nov. 24
"We've been that way ever since I've been there. We've had a 1,000-yard rusher all but one year. We run first and throw the ball second. We have good quarterbacks -- that's plural. We could throw the ball 25 times and still be successful but we choose to run the ball."
Through six games senior Brett Lindenberg had 1,312 yards and 15 touchdowns on just 167 carries (7.9-yard average). He's had games with 234, 266, 273 and 207 yards.
"They don't look overly quick but they are big," said Bothun. "Our quick guys should give them a good matchup.
"(Defensive coordinator) Jim Bentson wants them to play power football because he believes that plays into our strength on defense.
"Last Friday was our best defensive game. I don't think anyone is as physical as we are. Our defensive linemen and linebackers have been playing spectacular."
The Ponies enter the game ranked second in the final Associated Press Class A poll with an 11-0 record. In their three section playoff games the Ponies didn't blow teams out. They beat Ada-Borup 28-24 in the quarterfinals and Cass Lake-Bena 33-12 in the semifinals. They narrowly surpassed Fertile-Beltrami 36-29 in the Section 8A championship game.
During the regular season only Red Lake Falls gave the Ponies a challenge in a 16-14 win.
The Huskies are riding an emotional high from their section championship. Bothun is hoping that will carry over to Friday.
"I just told (the players) during Monday's practice that the only thing we've proven is that we're section champions," said Bothun. "I just asked them how far they want to go.
"I told them to forget about Friday and refocus. We were really focused in the championship game. I was looking around at the Fargodome and I was in awe but the kids seemed oblivious to all that was around them. It's the state tournament so hopefully we can do that again and just focus on our opponent."
One advantage for the Huskies is they are playing at home. Bothun said the trip from Warren is about 4 1/2 hours.
Although Pillager's victdory over B-H was huge the coaching staff did notice things that still need work. Those things will be addressed at practice.
"We noticed a couple of things from Friday's game that will take some fine-tuning," said Bothun. "One thing that concerned me was we had the advantage in field position and we couldn't put them away. With regard to penalties we shot ourselves in the foot.
"We need to execute better. We just seemed to get caught up in things instead of letting the game come to us and that's because we are young. Now it's the state tournament and you have to be a little more patient."
Pillager will see many different formations from the Ponies' defense. The Ponies predominantly play a 4-3 but will mix in a 5-2. In limited situations they will even use a six-man front. In the secondary the Ponies have the ability to play zone and man.
Pillager loves to run its wishbone offense and its power inside game. Against B-H the Huskies showed they have a passing attack but weather could be a factor Friday. Bothun said if the wind isn't blowing quarterback Lee Roberts may throw more.
"Hopefully Lee will be more relaxed in the pocket and we have great receivers," said Bothun. "I firmly believe that you stay with what works until they stop it."
For the Ponies, who last made it to state in 1991, they believe weather may be the deciding factor but Doss believes the bus ride won't be.
"The weather will be key," said Doss. "For us we need to take care of the ball. We need to run our ball control. We need to take care of the things we do best. Our defense needs to step up from what we did last week. Pillager has a lot of offensive weapons so we will have to contain their speed."
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