Armstrong-Ringsted/Lenox 8-Man Final preview: Title Quest
ARMSTRONG – Armstrong-Ringsted is in an unusual position as the favored team for the first time at the UNI-Dome this Friday.
In 2007, A-R was unrated starting their postseason run. Their 48-45 overtime victory over AR-WE-VA surprised most would-be prognosticators. The Mustangs may have surprised others around the state holding a lead over Stanton midway through the third quarter of last year’s final.
A-R enters Friday’s games rated fourth with Lenox rated eighth.
Both teams have been denied state titles in previous UNI-Dome appearances, so the winner with be the first champion in school history.
A-R and 8 Lenox both were semifinalists in 2007 and suffered losses to Stanton at the Dome. Lenox was overwhelmed by Stanton, 78-14.
The Mustangs exacted a measure of revenge for their 2007 32-24 finals loss with their 57-20 win over the Vikings last Friday.
About the Mustangs
A-R is now the highest scoring offense remaining in the playoffs with an average of just over 54 points a game, but the Tigers have the stingiest defense, allowing just 11.3 points per contest.
A-R coach Robert Zotz said that is where the game will be decided.
“Their defense is tough-they have a good run-stopping defense and that is where the battle is won or lost,” he said.
Zotz said Lenox shifts its defenders around to confuse the linemen.
“If we get helmet on helmet a lot, we’ll do well,” he said.
In Lenox’s 40-20 semifinal win over Corwith-Wesley-Luverne, the Panthers were hindered by three interceptions.
“Corwith is not a come-from-behind team,” said Zotz.
Otherwise, the Mustang coach said the key this week is the same as for any game-don’t give up the big play or turn the ball over.
While football occupies the thoughts of Armstrong-Ringsted and the rest of Emmet County, Zotz said his team remains focused on the task at hand.
“As student-athletes we have other things going on,” he said. “Coming off two big wins like we have, we’re just trying to remain focused the best we can.”
About the Tigers
Losing six seniors to graduation on offense and defense from the 2007 playoff team, very few expected Lenox to make the playoffs let alone the state championship game.
“We didn’t get a lot of respect,” said Lenox coach Allen Dukes. “With what we lost, we thought at the beginning of the season that we might be a 5-4 team. But these kids have a lot of heart and won’t quit.”
The Tigers finished in a three-way tie for the district title with Lamoni and East Union, Afton. Lenox lost to Lamoni 34-32 and beat East Union 22-12 in the regular season finale. The Tigers played East Union again in the the quarterfinals, winning 32-6.
“From the substate game until now, the kids have been playing really well,” aid Dukes. “We’ve stayed focused on what’s going on this week.”
As with any football team that makes the trip to the UNI-Dome, the Lenox community has rallied behind its team.
“It’s an exciting time. The community is involved and it’s fun for the kids,” Dukes said. “We also know we have to play a football game though. Practice has gone very well this week.”
Against CWL in the semifinal, taking advantage of three interceptions was key for the Tigers.
“I think that is a big part of state to create turnovers and use it to your advantage,” he said.
In 2007, Lenox turned the ball over on its first series against Stanton and the Vikings quickly scored.
Looking at the Friday’s matchup, Dukes said his team will need an almost perfect game against A-R
“In some ways they’re a lot like us. They use ball control and clock management-but they have a lot of speed,” Dukes said. “We need to make sure we do our job and contain and try to stop them so our offense can do the same.”
Dukes acknowledges the challenge isn’t easy with the speed of Armstrong.
“Obviously the quarterback (Ridge) Christiansen and (Tyler) Tonderum are a big part of the offense. They’re outstanding players and see the field well,” he said. “They do all you can ask of high school player.”
Dukes said his team will try to make someone else on the Mustangs beat them.
“But when you look down the lineup, they all have speed,” he said. “We’re quicker than people think, but as far as breakaway speed-we don’t have that.”