Knights fall in football regular season finale

Lucas Howard picks up some yards for Kingsland as he tries to get around a Hayfield defender. CHRISTINE VREEMAN/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
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The Kingsland Knights football team was already hard at work over the long MEA weekend, preparing for the first round of the Section 1A playoffs. The No. 8 seeded Knights (1-7) were to head to No. 1 Seed Blooming Prairie (8-0) on Tuesday, Oct. 23, for a 7 p.m. kickoff, which was after this edition went to press.

The Knights ended the regular season on the road with a loss at Hayfield by a score of 40-12 last Wednesday.

Knights’ coach Brent Stinson said the final regular-season game was a mirror image of the other seven games. The Knights played stretches of very good football and had a handful of negative plays that wound up being the difference in the game.

“At times, we played very well,” Stinson said. “I really believe we’ve improved in several areas as the season progressed. Hayfield has improved drastically since last season. Their numbers have doubled since last season, and they’ve had a group of eight seniors that contributed all season. They were physical, well coached, took advantage of the opportunities we gave them, and they didn’t give us very many.

“The second and third quarters were our best quarters in the game,” Stinson added. “We did some things we were really proud of. Between the tackles is where we played really well. Defensively, we had some mishaps in coverage that led to two of the Vikings’ touchdowns. We’re learning more and more through in-game experience. We still play with all the energy and enthusiasm a coach wants to see from a young team.”

The Knights offense had trouble consistently piling up yards against the physical Vikings’ defense. Kingsland only ran a total of 37 plays, finishing with 163 yards of total offense (4.4 yards per play). Most of the Kingsland yards came through the air.

William Jahn completed four of nine passes for 100 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. Nick Ramaker hit two of eight pass attempts for 15 yards. Lucas Howard was the big-play receiver for Kingsland, pulling in three catches for 78 yards (26 yards per catch) and one TD. Reid Kruegel added two catches for 30 yards.

Knights’ runners carried the ball 20 times for just 48 yards while committing one fumble. Dallas Jones, the team’s top rusher, found some tough sledding against the Vikings, finishing the game with nine carries for 18 yards. Ramaker added four rushes for 19 yards.

The Knights have worked all season to put four consistent quarters of football and play a “complete game.” Stinson said that kind of effort only comes through experience, which the Knights’ roster doesn’t have a lot of.

“Our defense needs to learn to get off the field on third down more consistently,” he said. “They put together some really long drives. They were physical and really wore us down. That led to some coverage mistakes. Part of mistakes was also due to more injuries, which meant we were getting even younger as the game went along.”

Over the course of the eight-game season, Stinson said the team got better at “situational awareness.” That means the players are taking what they learn in practice and applying it to what they’re seeing on the field from their opponents. From last year to this season, Stinson said they’re much better at taking the game plan and applying it to the field on Friday nights.

Section football

The Knights have a tough matchup on the road to start the Section 1A playoffs. They’re heading to Blooming Prairie to face the unbeaten and top-seeded Awesome Blossoms. BP beat Rushford-Peterson in the regular-season finale 47-14. Stinson said the Blossoms took advantage of the uncharacteristically mistake-prone Trojans.

“Rushford-Peterson usually doesn’t make mistakes like that,” Stinson said. “BP was also able to neutralize Rushford-Peterson’s physicality and drive the Trojans backward. However, the Trojans did respond with better football in the second quarter, but they’d dug themselves a really big hole, which was tough to climb out of.

“They (BP) bring an awful lot to prepare for offensively,” Stinson added. “They’re good at running the ball inside but they can also push it downfield through the air. We’re going to have to be well-disciplined at playing in space on Tuesday. That’s been our focus in practice. They’ll run a lot of shifts and motions out of their spread formations.

He said Section 1A is one of the toughest Class A sections in the state. It’s tough and physical from top-to-bottom.

“With the amount of talent in this section, anything can happen,” he said. “That’s the exciting part of football.”

The winner at Blooming Prairie Tuesday will take on the winner of No. 4 Seed Southland and No. 5 seed Fillmore Central on Saturday, Oct. 27, at the home of the higher seed.