Football review: Changes on offense pay off for Lakeville South

Cougars top Wayzata 24-14; North routs Kennedy

Mark Ruhl (6) rushed for 127 yards in Lakeville South’s 24-14 victory over Wayzata last Friday. Photo by Rick Orndorf
Mark Ruhl (6) rushed for 127 yards in Lakeville South’s 24-14 victory over Wayzata last Friday. Photo by Rick Orndorf

A Lakeville South offense that appeared punchless in its season opener packed a wallop in a 24-14 victory over Wayzata last Friday.

Trying to take pressure off an inexperienced offensive line, the Cougars ran more and passed less. They used more formations with tight ends and often kept running backs in the backfield to block.

And it worked. South took a 17-0 lead in the second quarter and went on to beat one of the state’s powerhouse football programs, causing students to flood the Cougars’ field once time expired. Wayzata has been to the state large-school championship game five times since 2004, winning three. The Trojans had played Lakeville South only once before, a 45-20 victory in 2010.

After gaining fewer than 100 yards in a 7-0 loss to Lakeville North on Aug. 29, the Cougars were able to move the ball against Wayzata, getting 140 yards on the ground. South senior Mark Ruhl gained 127 yards rushing and also scored on a 63-yard punt return.

“Mark Ruhl had an absolutely fantastic game,” Lakeville South coach Larry Thompson said. “He really did everything we needed him to do.”

The offensive linemen were more at home in their second game, and a more conservative game plan appeared to help, Thompson said. A system that featured four- and five-receiver sets looks like it will be shelved for now.

“I’d like to pass more, but I like winning better,” Thompson said. “We had a very good running game going against Wayzata.”

Also key to South’s victory was a defense that put a lot of pressure on Wayzata’s quarterbacks, recording six sacks. Thompson praised the play of linebackers Josh Corcoran, A.J. Westrude and Tyler Lattery and defensive tackle Alonte Alexander. Corcoran and Westrude had two sacks each.

Wayzata was held to 90 yards rushing, in part because of the negative yardage from all the sacks. Thompson said junior Brandon Johnson filled in well at defensive back for Grant Moesser, who missed last week’s game after undergoing minor knee surgery. Moesser, who Thompson called “one of our best players,” is expected to be able to return before the end of the season.

Lakeville South opened the scoring with a 46-yard field goal by Brendan Boche in the first quarter. Brenon Larson-Gulsvig threw a 53-yard touchdown pass to Luke Iverson in the second quarter and, less than two minutes later, Ruhl scored on his punt return.

After Wayzata closed to within 17-14 in the fourth quarter, Ruhl put the game out of reach with a 12-yard touchdown run.

Larson-Gulsvig completed six of 12 passes for 96 yards. Iverson had three catches for 66 yards. Defensive back Dylan Lach led the Cougars with 11 tackles, including six unassisted.

It also helped that Wayzata missed on several opportunities to make big plays, which Thompson said had been one of the Cougars’ problems in their season opener against Lakeville North.

While Friday’s victory might not be the biggest in Lakeville South football history – short of winning the Prep Bowl, it would be hard to top South’s 22-21 victory over Cretin-Derham Hall in a 2006 section championship game – it’s probably in the top five. According to figures on the Minnesota State High School League website, Wayzata is the state’s largest high school with almost 3,000 students in the top three grades. Lakeville South ranks 25th in enrollment, one spot behind Lakeville North.

And in football, numbers matter.

“North and South, if they were one school, would be the size of Eden Prairie (another Minnesota enrollment giant),” Thompson said. “For us to win a game like that is a huge boost in confidence for our young team, especially our young offense.”

Lakeville South will play host to Eagan at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13, in a South Suburban Conference game. Eagan was 1-8 in 2012 but appears improved this season. The Wildcats lost to Prior Lake in their opener before defeating Burnsville 20-7 last week.

LV North 59, Kennedy 0

Bloomington Kennedy might be happy to not have to see Lakeville North again after the way the Panthers bid the Eagles farewell from the South Suburban Conference.

Kennedy, which will join the new Metro West Conference next year, had only 68 yards of offense as North earned its second consecutive shutout.

Senior running back Jamiah Newell rushed for 94 yards and four touchdowns – all in the first half – for the Panthers, who led 38-0 at halftime. Zach Beier returned a punt 92 yards for a touchdown and backup quarterback Matthew Schiefelbein threw two touchdown passes in the second half.

Lakeville South (2-0), which is tied with Bloomington Jefferson for first place in the South Suburban, plays host to Eastview at 7 p.m. Sept. 13. Eastview is 1-1 after losing to Rosemount 24-0 last week.