Unbeaten and top-ranked Elk River is winning their games by an average of 48-12. They have done it with a deceptive running game and virtually no passing attack.

Both Owatonna head coach Jeff Williams and defensive coordinator Marc Achterkirch said their team must be disciplined on defense and read their keys, "You tackle anybody that looks like they might have the ball," Williams said. Owatonna plays Elk River at 2PM Friday, November 18, at U.S. Bank Stadium. Radio coverage begins about 1:30PM on KRFO AM 1390 and on the RadioPup app.

Achterkirch said, "The big thing for our defense is to play disciplined. They come off the line really low, really fast. So we need to match that. Our linebackers need to fit correctly in all the windows." He said the Elks' rushing attack is a little different than what Owatonna used to run. Elk River doesn't use a wing back, but rather has three running backs line up in a full house backfield. "Their halfbacks and fullbacks, quarterback, will carry out fakes 10 or 15 yards down the field. So it's very difficult to know who's even running the ball."

In the YouTube video at the end of this post of the Elks' 60-36 win over Alexandria in the state quarterfinals, you will notice the cameraman is occasionally fooled on who is running the ball. The Elks (11-0) have four wins against ranked teams this season.

 

The Elks average 463 yards a game on the ground and 30 yards passing. They have a pair of 1,000-yard rushers. Nicholas Rice has 1,874 yards and 22 touchdowns. He is averaging 12 yards per carry. Mr. Football candidate and all-star game player Sam Gibas has 1,107 yards and 18 touchdowns. He averages nine yards per attempt.

The Huskies (9-2) have outscored their opponents 32-17 on average this season. The number of big plays they have given up has decreased as the season has advanced. Offensively, Williams says OHS has to remain patient and stick with their game plan. He believes some teams have turned one-dimensional against Elk River when they have gotten behind. The Elks have 20 interceptions and are a plus-16 in turnover margin. Williams said, "Their linebackers and d-line are very good, very difficult to run on." Owatonna has an explosive back with Big Southeast Offensive Player of the Year Jason Williamson, "He rarely takes a negative play and often turned a dead play into a long touchdown with his ability to cut back and break tackles."

This is Owatonna's sixth state tournament appearance. They won the title in 2013 and have finished second three times. Elk River is at state for the seventh time. They were second in 1990 and have not won a title. Their most recent trip was 2012. The only head-to-head meeting is 1981 when the Indians beat the Elks 43-7.

Watch for an interview to post on Thursday with Owatonna graduate Aaron Peterson speaking with Todd Walkingstick of Beyond the Game at OwatonnaLive.com. Peterson was part of the state title team in 2013 and is Owatonna's all-time leading rusher.

Gary Walter