Reporting Mike Max
OWATONNA, Minn. (WCCO) - High-powered and highly-rated Totino-Grace will take on Owatonna this Saturday. The Huskies come in unbeaten.
They’ve changed some things because of something in Oregon. But they’ve maintained a pride through a senior class and a coaching staff that believes.
Early this week, the temperature hovered around 60 degrees. It was an unexpected break for teams preparing for the Prep Bowl – an honor not lost on Owatonna.
Coach Jeff Williams says the nice weather is an added bonus.
“It’s an amazing thing, and you know we were kinda freezing our tushies off a couple weeks ago. And now to be out here in this stuff makes it even more pleasurable to be practicing that last week when, you know, there aren’t very many teams left,” Williams said.
It’s certainly special to be a part of a team, a school and a community that is basking in the sun for a season.
Owatonna running back Luke Ebeling says the mood of his town has shifted with the team’s good fortunes.
“Everyone always has said Owatonna’s been such a football city, so once we actually did make it to state this year, you know, everybody’s pumped up. You get congratulations everywhere you go, and everybody’s in a better mood, it seems like,” Ebeling said.
They did it the hard way by beating St. Thomas Academy in a thriller last week at the dome. Quarterback Colton Schock says the win helped prove that they were worthy – although they already knew they were good.
“That was a huge win for us, not only because there’s a state semifinals that gave us birth for the state championship game. But it showed that we can come back from anything and we can come back from any adversity,” Schock said.
Credit some of it to Oregon, where the Owatonna coaching staff spent time this off season. They observed the Ducks’ no-huddle offense, worked with their coaches – then implemented it.
“Yeah, it’s difficult running different positions, running all these no-huddles. Every player on the field needs to know what’s going on, and if one player doesn’t know what’s going on, the whole play’s done,” Ebeling said. “So everybody needs to know the signals, and everybody needs to know all the play cards we have and all the play sheets. And it’s different when we used to huddle up and call the calls because everybody knew what was going on.”
But it really doesn’t matter your scheme. You have to have players who make plays, bond and believe.
“These kids, if they’ve proven anything, they’ve proven that they’re not willing to quit. They fight hard until the very end. They take advantage of all 48 minutes,” Williams said. “And I don’t know if in my 17 years of doing this as a head coach that I’ve had a group that’s been more resilient, but also more fun to work with. They’re just a great bunch of kids and happy to be spending 16 weeks of the fall with them.”
The players understand this is their moment in time to make their name.
“We kind of figured that out last year that we had a special group. So we really put a lot of time and effort into this summer, and clearing things up, making things right so we can come into the season already. And we’ve done a great job of that,” Schock said.
The Huskies are loaded with skill position talent, but anchored by an offensive line. This is what football’s supposed to be: hard-nosed and tough.
“If you don’t win the line of scrimmage, you’re not going to win very many games,” Williams said. “Our senior leaders in the line have just been huge for us. They’ve made all the difference in the world.”
There is one thing that stands between Owatonna and a state title, and it is the monster known as Totino-Grace. The Eagles have been on a seek-and-destroy mission all season, and Saturday they will get a look at what they’ve observed up close.
“I know they run the ball a lot, but they’re very capable of passing. They’re very big, they’re very fast. But we feel that we have the guys who can go against them – and it will be a good football game,” Schock said.