Football: NLS gets a home game with No. 1 D-C

Sep. 12—NEW LONDON — Be it by blowout or by a thin margin, the New London-Spicer football team has found a way to win on the road.

Finally at home for the first time this season, the Wildcats face a top-ranked challenger when Dassel-Cokato comes to Pederson Field at 7 p.m. Friday.

"We're happy to be 2-0 with a different variety with one win we had rather easily and one tight contest that we kind of left a few points out on the field that we thought we could have gotten," said NLS head coach Chad Gustafson. The Wildcats' wins have been against Section 6AAA rival Albany (48-20) and Foley (10-6).

The first state polls came out Monday morning. And the matchup will be the top-ranked Chargers vs. the fourth-ranked Wildcats.

Both teams have also won the last two Class AAA championships, with D-C winning in 2021 and NLS in '22.

"I always tell the kids I don't care what we're rated until the end of the year, but it's always motivation," Gustafson added. "I'm glad they're one and we're not because it's a little easier to use that against them."

The Chargers have earned the accolades. Using a trio of running backs — Kobee Thielen, Monte Gillman and Garrett Kelly— D-C has rolled to wins over Concordia Academy (40-3) and Holy Family Catholic (56-12). Quarterback Caleb Thinesen is back behind center. They have switched their offense from the wishbone to the T-formation.

"It's a tough offense to stop because there aren't a lot of dive fakes and trap fakes and then all of a sudden, somebody pulls the ball and you're like, well, who's got the ball?" Gustafson said. "You have to really have your keys and do your homework on it. Lining up properly will be crucial."

Paving the way for those three rushers is an offensive line that goes between 240 and 330 pounds, according to Gustafson.

"There's a lot of beef up front," Gustafson said. "And if you can't stop it, you're gonna keep getting a heavy dose of it. So if we can get them behind the sticks and they don't have third-and-short, they have to do a few other things. We have to try to keep them in those situations where it's third-and-six or seven or more. But they run the ball really well."

Gustafson added, "(D-C) will really put a test on us and it should be a great high-school game. I'm expecting that the game will be close and hopefully, we can get them in the end."

Friday's game will also be the second Minnesota Fallen Heroes Football Game. Ten players from each team will give up their names for the contest in honor of a local fallen hero. Money raised will support the Fallen Heroes Scholarship. Tailgating goes from 5-6 p.m., and intros of fallen service members/Gold Star families starts at 6:30 p.m. Former Blomkest Fire Chief Ryan Erickson will be honored at halftime. Erickson, 63, died on May 12, 2022 when a grain bin was blown over by high winds and struck him as he was leaving his farm to respond to a call for storm spotters.