The best teams move on quickly from their games whether they win or lose. That’s what the Lakeland football team needs to do before they play their next opponent.
The Thunderbirds travel to Eagle River to take on Northland Pines tonight in a non-conference game. The Thunderbirds will try to improve upon last week’s thrilling double-overtime victory at Cudahy.
“Last week is over and this week is a new week. If you’re not prepared going into the game from a mental focus standpoint, you’re going to get beat,” coach Dan Barutha explained.
Northland Pines comes into tonight’s contest with an 0-1 record. They lost 34-0 last week when they played a road game at Wittenberg-Birnamwood.
The story of that game was limited offense. In total the Eagles had 158 yards. Quarterback Kevin John was 3 of 5 passing for 45 yards.
But most of Northland Pines’ offense comes on the ground. The Eagles use a style of misdirection and deception which can confuse other teams.
“The basis of the Wing-T offense is deception and Pines utilizes that deception so you’re late figuring out where the ball is going,” Barutha said. “They will run outside off the jet sweep, inside off dive and blast, and quarterback boot with multiple blockers off the edge too.”
Last week, running back Ryan Peterson led Northland Pines with 88 yards rushing on 10 carries. The second highest runner was Michael Miller, who had 10 yards on four carries.
With such a running attack and style Northland Pines plays, having smart defense will be key for the Thunderbirds.
On defense, Northland Pines is led by Mason Birchbauer who had 15 total tackles last week. Haskel Parker also tallied double digits with 11 total tackles.
“Defensively, they employ a lot of blitzing pressure that we will need to identify and have answers to,” Barutha said.
It’s a defense which will focus on stopping Lakeland quarterback Michael Ouimette, who had a big game against Cudahy. He passed for 221 yards and three scores, and rushed for another 116 yards and two touchdowns in Lakeland’s 35-33 overtime win.
It was a great win, but on Sunday they shifted their focus to Pines.
“Once Saturday turns over to Sunday at midnight, I let the last game go, whether good or bad, and turn my attention to our next opponent,” Barutha said.
Ouimette’s favorite target, Hunt, will try to be a factor again. Last week, Hunt had 11 receptions for 138 yards and two touchdowns.
“How we handle their pressure is critical from an offensive and special teams standpoint,” Barutha said.
Zach Hayes was versatile, rushing for 36 yards and catching for 25 yards and a touchdown. The ground game will need to have success as well.
Defense will be important, but it will be a different style. Cudahy played a much more spread style of attack through the air and balanced it on the ground.
Pines, on the other hand, uses their running attack to their advantage. The Thunderbirds will have to be disciplined, just like they were when they made the game-deciding tackle against Cudahy.
“How we bring pressure and show exotic looks to handle their diverse rushing attack (is critical),” Barutha said.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Northland Pines High School in Eagle River.
Brett LaBore may be reached at [email protected] or [email protected]