Another Thursday night football game is in the books and the Raiders were on the wrong side of the 13-7 score moving Hastings to 1-2 on the season. Mahtomedi entered the contest in the same situation …
Another Thursday night football game is in the books and the Raiders were on the wrong side of the 13-7 score moving Hastings to 1-2 on the season. Mahtomedi entered the contest in the same situation as Hastings with a 1-1 record after getting thumped by a very good opponent and then earning a victory over an opponent still finding their stride.
The constant reminder of the kids are kids, and they are student athletes needs to start out this kind of story. Neither team played well on Thursday night and often both looked to be doing everything they could to give the game away, especially Mahtomedi. Multiple turnovers by the Zephyrs set Hastings up nicely a few times but the offense struggled to convert the turnovers into points.
The Raider’s offensive struggles appear to be frustrating the coaches as much as the fans. The team has a ton of great humans on both sides of the ball and those great humans also happen to be pretty darn good athletes, which is where the frustration and perhaps more so, confusion comes into play. Why are the Raiders struggling on offense?
Cole Zeien is the smaller stature, quick running back, much like Payton Burow was the previous few years. Ryan Clemens is the larger power back that is similar to Brendan Freiermuth, but both are having difficulties they should not be having moving the ball. Lucas Foss at quarterback has a big stature and a strong arm to make big passes, he also has the legs to move the ball on the ground once in a while if he needs to. The receivers are all talented, multi-sport athletes, and overall, they have 32 seniors between varsity and junior varsity. So, what is the issue at hand?
The Raider offense ran a total of 45 plays Thursday night. 20 rushes for a total of 37 yards and 25 passes with 10 completions for 118 yards. Offensively, the Raiders had a total of 155 yards averaging 3.44 yards per play. Defensively, they saw 58 plays and allowed 399 yards averaging 6.88 yards per play allowed.
Mahtomedi only scored 13 points even though they were marching up and down the field, mostly at will. The big difference is that the Hastings defense took the ball away at very key points late in the drives, forcing three turnovers. The biggest was Blake Vandehoef’s leaping interception at the Raider four-yard line. The same thing that they did to Two Rivers, a bend but not break defense, but that style defense only works when the offense can sustain drives and get at least two touchdowns on the board.
Mahtomedi managed 359 yards on the ground with one back averaging almost 15 yards per carry on 12 carries compared to Hastings 1.85 yards per carry across the board. The Raiders did well through the air with 11.8 yards per reception, but a continually productive pass game is set up by a productive run game. Eventually defenders will just pin their ears back and get to the QB as quick as possible if they are not worried about stopping the run.
With Mahtomedi leading 13-0, Hastings took the kickoff and started at their own 46. Five plays later they were in the endzone, all 54 yards being gained through the air. Foss made decisive throws and receivers made clean catches and the Raiders scored in just over two minutes. Without seeing the game film, that drive was one of the cleanest drives they have had all year. The line kept the pressure off Foss, everyone looked to be in sync with each other and they moved the ball efficiently. That drive showed the talent they have on offense, now the trick is to get that team wide confidence to come out as the norm.
With the coaches the Raiders have, there is no doubt they will get this new look Raider team working well together. Head Coach Dana Strain is a model coach for staying even keeled when it is needed most, hopefully that will happen against Bloomington Jefferson this week. The Jaguars are usually a very physical team. They tend to focus on beating up their opponents to wear them down.
Hopefully the offense can add some plays to set up other plays, one thing that has been very lacking is offensive deception. Most of the run plays seem to be some basic variant of a middle handoff and the routes the receivers are running are basically the same routes each time allowing defenses to jump routes to defend them easier. This Raider team has the talent to do some damage the rest of the season, and that starts in Bloomington against the Jaguars at 7:00 p.m. on Sept. 21.