Mustangs look to improve on runnerup finish
ARMSTRONG – Armstrong-Ringsted begins its quest tonight to try to improve on 2007’s state runnerup finish as the Mustangs host Woodbine in the 8-Man Substate game.
However, the expanded playoff system this season gives more teams the opportunity and makes the tournament trail one game longer.
The Mustangs are familiar with the playoff atmosphere and know the road is never easy. Last year, A-R knocked out defending state champion Northeast Hamilton by a field goal to advance to the semifinals at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls.
A-R needed overtime in the semifinal to beat AR-WE-VA by three points and advance to the finals against Stanton.
“The first key with a playoff atmosphere is focus and momentum,” said A-R coach Robert Zotz. “You need emotions to drive you and take you to another level, but you can’t let them consume you so that you lose focus on your assignment.”
Looking toward tonight’s game with Woodbine-a first-ever meeting between the two schools-don’t look for the Mustangs to change their run-first strategy that has led them to their success.
While the speed of Tyler Tonderum and running ability of Ridge Christiansen have been a staple the past two seasons, the holes they run through start with the offensive line.
Coach Zotz gives credit to his crew of center Willie Beeler and tackles Ethan Jensen and Joe Brandenburg.
“They take care of stuff and they get big holes for our backs to run through,” he said.
The ends in 8-Man football are used both as blockers and receivers.
“The ends are glorified linemen and we have four that we can rely on,” Zotz said, naming Seth Anderson, Travis Hantelman, Cody Hantelman and Craig Tigges.
Scouting Woodbine, Zotz said the Tigers have a good quarterback.
“They’re still a run-first team, but if you can control the run, they don’t have a problem throwing,” he said. “They run tight (formations) and spreads, so you have to be ready for both.”
Woodbine coach Jason Strong talked with the AR-WE-VA coach at their recent Dist. 1 meeting to learn a little more about the Mustangs.
“They run the ball pretty well and have a big line with some athletes,” he said. “We have to figure out how to control the run. We have something in mind that should work best for us. We prefer to put them in passing situations.”
Strong said he couldn’t compare the Mustangs to any team the Tigers have played this year.
“We don’t see any offenses like that,” he said. “We’ve played against bigger teams, but not with those types of athletes in the backfield.”
Strong describes his team as a balanced offense and statistics back up the statement.
Senior quarterback Nathan Lee has thrown for 1,113 yards with 18 touchdowns to two interceptions.
Jon Gale, a 5-4, 154-pound senior running back has rushed for 1,001 yards.
“We have skill guys that have played for three years. Our concern is in the line,” he said. “We try to use our quickness.
“Defensively we like to play aggressive. We’re ninth in the state in scoring defense. We have an experienced team. We don’t have great speed, but do have good speed.”