STATE FOOTBALL: Knights prepare for semifinal matchup

Independent file photo RTR’s Westin Kirk carries the ball during their Section 2 9-Man Championship game against Red Rock Central on Nov. 2. The Knights will face Nevis in the state semifinals today.

TYLER – The Russell-Tyler-Ruthton Knights are one win away from reaching the 9-Man state title game. Standing in there way is Nevis. The two teams will do battle at U.S. Bank Stadium in today at 9 a.m. with a spot in the championship game against Spring Grove on the line.

“Our biggest focus has been trying to stick to our routine as much as possible,” RTR coach Josh Fredrickson said. “It’s going to be an obvious change getting into U.S. Bank Stadium. Right now I’m standing at the practice facility in Eden Prairie. U.S. Bank Stadium is going to be so much more. There is definitely going to be an awe factor.”

In the first game of the state tournament the Knights held Mountain Lake Area to six points. During the three games of the section tournament the Knights gave up just 24 points.

“When teams back us into a corner we get that mentality that we are going to fight back and not let them in,” Fredrickson said. “I think it’s a heart thing.”

Jonah Johnson is one of six seniors on the RTR roster. Last week Johnson led the Knights with 56 rushing yards. Johnson also led the team with four receptions for 56 yards.

“His leadership has been incredible,” Fredrickson said. “He’s done a great job of not only getting everybody riled up, but with the energy he plays with. The rest of the team follows that.”

RTR is a team that will run the ball right down an opponent’s throat. Nevis plays with a similar smash mouth style of play.

“They are tough and strong,” Fredrickson said. “Their running back is a real strong runner. He’s a bull. He’s going to be tough. There are not a lot of secrets there. They are going to run right at us.”

Fredrickson said in order to slow down the ground and pound attack they’ll have to gang tackle.

“We have to get guys to the ball,” Fredrickson said. “They are going to come right at us. If we can play tough and hold our own at the line of scrimmage and get guys to the ball I think we will be okay.”

Just like the Knights have played strong defense, Nevis also boasts a strong defense. Fredrickson said that playing indoors could help the Knights offensively.

“They have a really tough defense,” Fredrickson said. “I think that’s probably their strength. I don’t think they’ve seen a team with the weapons that we could potentially have. The last couple of weeks we’ve had to play in the rain and the wind and haven’t been able to open it up. Playing indoors in a controlled environment I think we can have a chance to open it up. I’m pretty excited about that.”