Knights get a section championship replay

Published 8:35 am Thursday, October 8, 2009

This week the Alden-Conger football team finds itself in an unusual position.

The Knights (3-2, 3-2 SMC) travel to Nicollet to face the Raiders (4-1, 4-1 SMC) in a rematch of last year’s Section 2, Nine-man championship game and some would consider them the underdog.

In the championship game Nicollet played without starting quarterback Jordan Rudenick under center and Alden-Conger won 18-0 in a game where the Knights were able to neutralize the Raiders’ potent passing attack. Alden-Conger will try to do the same Friday as it tries to remain near the top of the conference.

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“Nicollet is a much-improved team than they were last year,” said Knights head coach Chad Mattson. “As far as a scouting report goes, they’re 80 percent passing, 20 percent run. So we’re going to prepare for the pass and hopefully we can make the right adjustments.”

Alden-Conger hasn’t faced a team like Nicollet, a team that has Rudenick completing nearly 60 percent of his passes and throwing for more than 720 yards in five games.

The Knights’ defense has been the strength of the team early on, and it’s a unit coming off its third straight shutout at home. Mattson knows getting pressure on Rudenick early on is going to be important if Alden-Conger wants to come out on top.

“That’s going to be a key, getting pressure on him and making him get rid of the ball and making him uncomfortable back there,” Mattson said. “We’re hoping that we’re up to the challenge especially that we know that’s what they like to do.”

Though the defense has three shutouts at home this season, the road has been a different story. The two losses on the season came on the road to undefeated Westbrook-Walnut Grove and Hills/Beaver Creek where the defense gave up 28 points and 37 points.

“I think if we just put pressure up front … I think we’ll do just fine,” said Knights senior Spencer Niebuhr.

It will be the first game where Alden-Conger’s secondary will be tested heavily and Mattson might use a safety against the Raiders.

“It worked out pretty well for us last year when we played them,” Mattson said. “We’re kind of hoping for the same thing this year.”

With three games remaining for the Knights the time for building momentum for the playoffs is now. Following Nicollet, Alden-Conger faces Edgerton/Ellsworth (4-1) and hosts Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton (2-3) before entering the Section 1 Nine-man playoffs where they’ll encounter the likes of Mabel-Canton, ranked No. 8 in the latest AP poll, and Lanesboro, ranked No. 10.

“I think now would be the best time for us to make that push,” Niebuhr said. “Especially coming up against a Nicollet team that’s been playing pretty well. If we can knock them off, we’ll be doing pretty good in the standings.”