After a solid 27-8 win over Braham to open the MSHSL?Class A Football State Tournament quarterfinals, the Dawson-Boyd football team is ready for the next round.
"We had a pretty solid defensive effort. There are teams that throw the ball and teams that throw the ball really well," said Dawson-Boyd head coach Cory Larson. "I thought we did an excellent job against their pass. It was a very good all-around defensive effort from our kids."
The Blackjacks (11-1) will face a team with a little more run focus in Sleepy Eye Saint Mary's.
The Knights (12-0) advanced to the semifinals with a 20-14 win over Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity last Saturday.
"The strength of their team is still their kids up front. The kids up front are big and physical. They also get off the ball well," Larson said. "They have a big, strong, physical running back at the same time with a shifty quarterback. I would categorize them of more of a run team, but any team that runs the ball, their play-action game is that much more effective. They are capable of throwing it effectively as well.
"They try to spread you out a bit, but they are still predominately a running football team. They are very good up front. They have very good position players."
While the two teams did not meet during the season, they have a common opponent in Wabasso.
Sleepy Eye Saint Mary's faced the Rabbits in Week 7, winning 36-15 while the Blackjacks defeated Wabasso 28-0 in the Section 5A championship.
Despite the common opponent, Larson said they don't look too closely at those results.
"Sometimes scores are based on how those two teams match up," said Larson. "When you're playing a (common) team, how you match up against them might be slightly different.
"It's just another score. You can't get caught up in trying to compare scores. You understand that if you've gotten to this point that they are a very good football team."
Knowing that the quality of their opponent is going to be high on Saturday, Larson said its about execution on both sides of the ball.
"Offensively it's always about execution," said Larson. "Defensively, you have to execute. You have to tackle well, you have to play physical up front, play low. As in any game, eliminate the big plays."
Larson has been please with the preparation and focus of the team heading into the semifinal game. They've haven't been peaking early.
"You definitely want your fans and community to be excited, but your kids to stay focused on preparation and stay pretty low-keyed," Larson said. "You don't want them to get too excited too early in the week and feel like your emotionally drained by Saturday morning."
After winning the State title in 2011, Dawson-Boyd was knocked out of the 2012 tournament in the semifinal game by Bethlehem Academy, who knocked out Tracy-Milroy-Balaton this year.
"I try to get them to focus on the present. What happened last year is last year. You can take that feeling of losing that game and let it motivate you (or go the other direction)," said Larson. "You can have two different feelings coming into this game. Hopefully, with all of that said, it's their pride, their self-motivation, that they rely on going into Saturday's game."