By Kevin Dudley
The Johnnie football team is rolling heading into a huge matchup against archrival St. Thomas. They have started the season 3-0 with each victory coming in convincing fashion.
The season started on Sept. 2, at home with a 98-0 victory over St. Scholastica. The Johnnies shined on both sides of the ball in the game, outgaining the Saints 560-52 in yards and scoring a pair of defensive touchdowns.
The Johnnies got going quickly after the Saints mishandled the punt following their first drive. The mistake led to a 43-yard touchdown strike between sophomore quarterback Jackson Erdmann and sophomore running back Kai Barber. The 98 points scored was a record for a game played between two Division III teams.
The Johnnies faced NAIA Presentation (S.D.) on Sept. 9 at home the following week. Senior wide receiver Evan Clark set the tone for the Johnnies with a 69-yard touchdown run on the second play of the game. Senior running back Dusty Krueger also played a large role rushing for 144 yards in the Johnnies 49-14 win.
The Johnnies opened MIAC play on Sept.16 at St. Olaf with a 56-7 victory. They struck early again scoring on the second offensive play from scrimmage when Erdmann found junior wide receiver Joey Eckhoff for a 26-yard touchdown. Erdmann was strong for the Johnnies throwing for 194 yards and a pair of touchdown passes.
The Johnnies have now shifted their attention to week four where a crucial MIAC matchup against St. Thomas awaits them in Minneapolis at Target Field. The Johnnies head to the game ranked No.6 in Division III and The Tommies are ranked No.11. The Tommies will be the home team Saturday, electing to play the game at Target Field due to space limitations at their own O’Shaughnessy Stadium.
The game expects to draw more than 30,000 fans, which would break the Division III attendance record that was set Oct. 8, 2016 at UW-Whitewater with 17,535 fans.
Erdmann is ready to take in the experience at Target Field, but is not quite sure what to expect.“I can’t comprehend it yet, but it will be exciting,” Erdmann said.
Junior wide receiver Will Gillach is also looking forward to taking part in the special game. “It’s a great stage to represent both a school and football program I am proud of,” Gillach said.
While everyone locally and nationally is focusing on the location, the Johnnies are focused on their opponent.
The Tommies figure to be a tough test as always, however SJU is confident they will find the right formula to win.
The Tommies have used an aggressive style against the Johnnies in the past, often stacking the box with eight or nine defenders. This takes away the run, but may give the Johnnies opportunities in the vertical passing game.
Both Erdmann and Gillach stressed the importance of Johnnie receivers winning one-on-one battles against the aggressive Tommie cornerbacks.
“In order to win this game we need to win some one-on-one battles,” Gillach said.
Erdmann echoed Gillach’s statement.
“They do a lot of one-on-ones, and we need to take advantage of that,” Erdmann said.
Kickoff will be at 1:10 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 23 from Target Field in Minneapolis.