STATE FOOTBALL: Minneota focused on Mayer Lutheran in semis

Independent file photo Minneota’s Thomas Hennen looks upfield during their Class A quarterfinal game against Mahnomen on Nov. 11. The Vikings will face Mayer Lutheran in the semifinals today.

MINNEOTA -The Minneota Vikings are no stranger to the big stage. Since 2009 the Vikings have made the trip to the state tournament six times and won the state championship three times.

The senior class for the Vikings have been a part of two state championship teams and now have been to the state tournament three times. Minneota coach Chad Johnston said that it’s a group that’s looking to go out on top.

“This group is hungry,” Johnston said. “A few of these guys have been a part of a state championship game before. Alex Pohlen has been in a state tournament three other years besides this year. They are really hungry from last year. They were disappointed with the early bow out. They’ve been motivated to keep going.”

Isaac Hennen is one of those seniors. Hennen rushed for 158 yards and four touchdowns during Minneota’s opening round win Mahnomen.

“We’ve relied on him,” Johnston said. “We knew that was something we were going to do. The nice thing is we got away with not doing at as much during the regular season. We were able to keep him fresh. He’s been called upon.”

The Vikings possess a balanced attack offensively. With senior quarterback Alex Pohlen under center the Vikings can beat you through the air and on the ground. Johnston said Mayer Lutheran possesses a balanced attack offensively as well.

“They are a team that does a bit of everything,” Johnston said. “The running game is pretty traditional, with the exception of a couple of formations. They do like to throw the ball a lot. That’s where the biggest concern is going to be. They have a pretty good route combinations. They do a lot with crossings. They’ve got some good kids to throw the ball to. They’ve got a good athletic quarterback.”

Throughout the season the Vikings have faced teams that typically utilize zone coverage to try and slow them down. Johnston said the Vikings will face a physical man to man defense in today’s semifinal matchup.

“They are a bread and butter man to man team,” Johnston said. “They play a lot of man to man. We’ve seen man to man throughout the year a little bit. They have the athletes to cover us one-on-one. Pohlen is going to have to hold onto the ball a little longer than he’s used to. We are going to go in doing the things we’ve always done, but them going man to man will maybe loosen up the box a little bit. They’ll do their best to take our passing game out of the picture.”