CLASS 9-MAN FOOTBALL: RTR embraces underdog role against No. 1 Spring Grove

Independent file photo In this Nov. 1 file photo, RTR running back Jon Lucero fights through a tackle during the Section 2 9-man championship against Ogilvie. The Knights take on Spring Grove today at New Ulm in the quarterfinals of the state tournament.

TYLER – For a second-straight year, the Russell-Tyler-Ruthton Knights will be competing in the quarterfinals of the 9-man state tournament on Friday in hopes of earning a spot in the semifinals at U.S. Bank Stadium. Seeded eighth of the eight teams and pegged as the underdog against the defending state champions of Spring Grove, Coach Josh Fredrickson believes that the pressure is squarely on the shoulders of the Lions who have yet to be beaten over the last two seasons.

“I think that always helps I think in a situation like this being an underdog team,” said Fredrickson. “They’re the ones that have all the pressure, them being the one seed and they were the champions last year. We just need to go out and make plays. We don’t have any pressure on us, we made it back and anything at this point is gravy. If we can just go out and make plays I think anything can happen. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what our guys can do.”

In order to unseat the reigning champions, the Knights will be faced with the daunting task of slowing down the Lions duel-threat quarterback Alex Folz, who has accounted for 3,861 yards of total offense and 56 total touchdowns through the regular season and sections. According to Coach Fredrickson, remaining disciplined in executing defensive assignments along with swarming to the football will be critical in limiting the damage done by Folz.

“He’s obviously the focal point of that team,” said Fredrickson. “I think we’ve done a pretty good job this year of pursuit on defense. I think we do a good job of getting nine caps to the ball every single time, and I think that’s gotta be even more stressed this week against him. I think if we can get guys to the ball against him, especially when he’s running, I think that’s going to be big. On the other side of that, when he’s sitting back passing we need to make sure that we stay disciplined, have guys keep doing their jobs and not trying to do somebody else’s.”

Possessing their own firepower on offense, the Knights are more than equipped to go toe to toe with the best of them–carrying a deep cast of skill-position players and a powerful offensive line that have combined to run roughshod over their three sectional opponents. Of course, the straw that stirs the drink is the Knight’s own duel-threat quarterback in Cooper Hansen, who will look to provide his team with big plays in what could be a shootout style of game–a style of play that Fredrickson believes his team is built for on Friday.

“I think there’s definitely spots where we can attack them through the air and on the ground, so I’d say the big emphasis is just sharpening up things,” said Fredrickson. “Cooper’s been having a great tournament run here and we’ve got a lot of guys that can make a lot of plays, so I think that’s definitely a possibility (that) we should be able to hopefully score some points.”

With kickoff only a day away, the two teams will put together their final preparations before taking the field at 5 p.m. at New Ulm High School in what should be an exciting matchup between two dynamic football teams.