The Verndale Pirates have rushed for 3,509 yards.
The Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley Wolverines have allowed just 512 yards rushing this season.
If Verndale can run the ball it will be the key to Friday's state Nine-Man quarterfinal as the Pheasant Conference foes square off for the first time since Oct. 17, 2007.
"We have to run the ball and we know that and hopefully we can," said Verndale head coach Mike Mahlen. "We just have to go at them. They are really big up front, 6-4, 6-5 all the way across the front line. We have to hopefully block those guys if we're going to get anything done. There isn't a magic potion and it's too late in the season to change things. It's man on man."
Verndale quarterback Colby Schmidt attempted a pass during the Pirates' game against Hillcrest Lutheran Oct. 2 at Verndale. Schmidt and the Pirates will face Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley in the Nine-Man state quarterfinals Friday. Brainerd Dispatch/Kelly Humphrey» Purchase reprints of this photo.
Levi Lupkes leads the Wolverines' defense with 70.5 tackles. He also leads C-G-B's rushing attack with 1,117 yards and 16 touchdowns on 102 carries.
Matt Hiedeman has 62 tackles and three interceptions. Marcus Morrissette has 58 tackles, Zach McNally has 55 and Levi Nelson has 52.5.
The Wolverines have outscored opponents 52.4 to 6.7 and have held opponents to 126.8 yards per game. They've recovered 17 fumbles and picked off 16 passes.
"We've been successful in stopping the run for the most part," said Wolverines co-head coach Brian Dahl. "We feel confident in our defense. We're experienced, with a lot of seniors on the front line, and seniors and juniors at linebacker. They do a good job of reading plays and getting off the blocks and then making tackles.
"We'll do what we've done all season and try not to give up the big plays. We'll force them to grind it out as we've had some success doing that."
Verndale vs. Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley
What: State Nine-Man quarterfinal
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Where: Big Cat Stadium, University of Minnesota-Morris
Only two teams have scored more than twice against the Wolverines - Ashby 51-14 and Edgerton/Ellsworth 60-34 in the Section 3 final.
Third-ranked Verndale, led by Amos Schmidt's 1,717 yards and 27 touchdowns on 204 carries, is averaging 41.6 points and 375.7 yards per game.
Zack Meidinger has rushed for 666 yards and eight touchdowns and quarterback Colby Schmidt has rushed for 353 yards and 6 TDs.
Schmidt's also thrown for 248 yards and two touchdowns on 20-of-38 passing, but the Pirates are a running team.
The Wolverines are a little more balanced, but like Verndale they want to run. They're pretty good at it too, with 3,657 yards rushing. Along with Lupkes' 1,117 yards, Levi Nelson has 746 yards and nine touchdowns on 94 carries. Nate Vogt has 793 yards and 13 scores on 66 carries.
Quarterback Zach McNally has thrown for 664 yards and 16 touchdowns to just one interception on 35-of-50 passing. His top targets have been Justin Seifert (12 catches, 246 yards, six TDs) and Lupkes' (7, 151, 3).
"They've got pretty good speed and a good quarterback, who is big and strong and runs the ball well," said Mahlen. "He throws well also. They have one back who they like to pound it in the middle with two or three kids that can get outside.
"They will throw the ball, but that's not their strength, but they can throw it. They have a lot of versatility as far as their backs go. We'll have to try and slow them down, but their offense is pretty awesome."
The Wolverines are averaging 52.4 points and 400.6 yards per game.
Defensively, Verndale has allowed 218.6 yards and 13.8 points per game. Cody Yungbauer leads the Pirates with 60 tackles. Amos Schmidt has 52, Johnathan Kohlhase has 51, Colby Schmidt 40 tackles and five interceptions and Matt Willis 41 tackles and four interceptions.
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5856.
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