The Minneota Vikings finished the 2009 football season as the top team in Class 1A, and using their season-opening performance Thursday night as a measuring stick, they appear poised to make another run at a state championship.
The Vikings rolled past Adrian 49-12 in Adrian, taking advantage of mistakes by the Dragons and exhibiting a strong ground game and just enough of a passing attack to keep opponents off balance. First-year starting quarterback Beau Buysse, a senior, threw for two touchdowns and ran for one, Jacob Cheadle ran for two TDs and caught a scoring pass, and Brandon Anderson scored once on the ground.
Minneota’s big victory came in a rematch of last year’s Prep Bowl, a 42-21 victory over Adrian. Thursday’s decision in a Little Sioux Conference game gave Minneota a four-game winning streak against the Dragons.
(To see a photo gallery from the game, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.)
“It wasn’t perfect. But it was Week 1 and this was Adrian, a team that we expect will be the favorite in their section,” Minneota coach Chad Johnston said. “To come out with a win like this, I’m happy.
“Obviously we’ve got things to fix, we’ve got corrections to make, we had some botched assignments, some missed tackles, some not recognizing formations, but we’ve got a lot of kids with very little experience running around out there in a very big game. We’re going to build off this.”
WHEN I VISITED Minneota during preseason workouts, Johnston said he was optimistic despite the graduation of a dozen seniors. Quarterback Sam Derynck, who threw for 34 touchdowns in 2009, is among the now former Vikings. Buysse stepped into the quarterback job, and the prevailing wisdom was that Minneota’s running game would be in good hands with the return of Anderson (who ran for two TDs in the 2009 Prep Bowl) and Cheadle. The prevailing wisdom sure looked very wise Thursday night.
“We knew going into this year that we’d probably be a little more run-oriented, but Beau’s looked great,” Johnston said. “He worked hard all summer and he’s looked good in fall camp. We probably expected to throw it a little more tonight, but our running game was clicking and one of the things against Adrian is you want to keep their offense off the field.”
After Brock Bullerman put Adrian ahead 6-0 with a 27-yard touchdown run, it was all Minneota. Buysse scooted 20 yards for a first-quarter TD, and things began going south for Adrian when a low punt snap led to the punter’s knee touching the turf and the Vikings getting the ball on the Adrian 5. Cheadle ran in from there.
A long kickoff return by the Dragons was negated by a holding penalty, and before long Cheadle was off on a 35-yard scoring run. The score was 21-6 at halftime and there wasn’t much doubt after that.
“It doesn’t seem like we usually get a whole lot of breaks down here, and we got them tonight,” Johnston said. “We got a couple calls here and there, and those are things that can change the momentum. Overall, I was happy with how the kids played. We had a lot of kids step up.”
THE EVENING WAS spectacular for football. The weather was on the cool side, with a slight breeze. My concession-stand dinner was outstanding: a hamburger, a pork burger and a Diet Mountain Dew. The cheerleaders were in midseason form and the Adrian band was terrific.
Seventy-five minutes before kickoff, the Dragons coaches sat together in the coaches office while the players sat on the floor and leaned against the walls in a school corridor. Soon after, the pregame message to the Adrian seniors from coach Randy Strand was straightforward: “Here we are. It’s your senior year. If you don’t have some fire in your gut now, you shouldn’t be here.”
The instruction to the defense was just as clear: “Hit Buysse on every play, clean shots.”
This was small-town football at its finest. The teams walked the one block from the high school to the field by strolling down an alley, with back yards on both sides. The Adrian American Legion color guard presented the colors as the band played the anthem. I overheard an assistant coach from Minneota ask a counterpart from Adrian, “How much rain did you guys get down here last night?”
Johnston, proving to be an avid reader of John’s Journal, asked these questions when he saw me before the game: “How was the drive? You didn’t get slowed down by any local authorities, did you?” That was a needling reference to the speeding ticket I picked up in Renville on my way home from Minneota a few days earlier.
Nice line, coach. The only thing faster than my car is your football team.
I’LL BE BACK on a metro football field Friday night, visiting the University of St. Thomas to watch defending 5A state champion Cretin-Derham Hall meet Forest Lake in a Suburban East Conference game.
No more jokes about my heavy foot, please.
BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 31
*Miles John has driven: 1,559
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