Despite suffering a heartbreaking one-point loss last week to then Class 3A No. 9 Winnebago, the Mendota football team is confident.
“The mentality is really good,” Mendota coach Brock Sondgeroth said. “In one way, it was a really devastating loss because we all felt like we should have been able to win that game. In another way, it was a confidence booster because everybody except us thought Winnebago was going to handle us. We went into the game thinking, ‘We can beat these guys and play with anybody else in the conference.’ That’s kind of what we got out of it.”
The Trojans will take that mentality and confidence on the road for the first time this season as they travel to Stillman Valley for a 7 p.m. kickoff Friday.
“We’re feeling pretty good,” Mendota senior linemen Trevor Todd said. “We’re just hoping to win this one. It’s tough to come back from losing by one point, but they were a really good team.”
The Trojans enter the game 2-1 overall and 0-1 in the BNC West, while the Class 3A No. 7-ranked Cardinals are 3-0 overall and 1-0 in the conference after a 14-7 victory over Oregon last week.
“Stillman Valley is a very good team,” Sondgeroth said. “They don’t make a lot of mistakes.
“They don’t have any superstars anywhere on their team in my opinion. They just have a bunch of really good players.”
The Cardinals run a triple option offense out of two formations — the flexbone and the wishbone.
Out of the flexbone, in which Stillman Valley uses wide splits between its offensive linemen, the Cardinals run the triple option, rocket sweep, short reverse and occasionally a fullback dive, Sondergeroth said.
When it the wishbone, in which the offensive linemen are foot to foot, the Cardinals “try to grind it and pound you.”
Sondgeroth said the key for the Trojans, who used to run a similar offense, is to stay disciplined.
“I’ve tried my hardest this year not to step over into the defense that much, but I got with the defensive coaches and said, ‘Look, these are the things that gave us fits whenever we faced a defense like ours,’” Sondgeroth said. “That’s what we’re basically going to do to them and we’ll see how it goes.”
Fullback Zac Hare leads the Stillman Valley offense. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound senior has carried the ball 61 times for 413 yards and six touchdowns this season while catching one pass for 54 yards and a score.
Senior running back Jacob Hoey has rushed for 206 yards and two scores on 21 carries, while quarterback Connor McNames has run for 53 yards and three TDs on five carries while also completing 4-of-6 passes for 80 yards and a score.
Defensively, the Cardinals run a base 5-2 but sometimes bring a cornerback down to the line on the strong side for a 6-2 look with a safety shifted over to the strong side as well.
Sondgeroth said the Trojans will once again rely on junior halfback Wyatt Martinson (area-best 605 yards, six TDs) while also spreading it around to Jimmy Bruno, James Carroll and Mikan Biers and mixing in more passing as the team has managed just 136 yards through the air in three games.
“Hopefully, we can get the passing game going a little bit more,” Sondgeroth said. “That’s one thing I want to get more than anything. If we can spread them out just a little bit more, it will open up the running game even more. That’s the big thing we want to see.”
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.