Football: Moorhead wary of Elks ground game in rematch

by Bruce Strand, Sports editor

Six weeks ago, Elk River journeyed to Moorhead for a non-conference game and came away with a 31-29 win on a last-second field goal by Austin Larson.

On Saturday, the two squads will clash again in a game much more important than the non-conference tilt on Sept. 16. The top-seeded Elks (6-2) will host the No. 4 Spuds (4-5) at 2 p.m. Saturday in the Section 8AAAAA semifinals.

“That game seems like a very long time ago,” said Moorhead coach Kevin Feeney. “I know Elk River has improved since that game, from what we have seen on film, and i believe we have seen some improvement also.”

What Feeney remembers most, along with everyone else who’s played the Elks, is the ground game with all its fakes and misdirections. The Elks are averaging 325 yards rushing per game, led by Moses Saygbe with 1,205 yards and 14 touchdowns.

“They have a tremendous run game,” said Feeney. “It is an offense that is hard to replicate in practice, so the first quarter is when you are trying to get a feel for what the style is.

“The deception is a huge advantage for them, and certainly when you have a player like No. 21, who is a special one, that makes your team believe it can run the ball against anyone.”

Moorhead (4-5) can score points, too. They beat Duluth East 50-30 in the quarterfinals on Tuesday while the Elks had a bye.

“They have some good players,” said Elk coach Steve Hamilton. “Their QB (Aaron Lien) is good, No. 9 (Brett Lawrence) is a very good receiver, No.  25 (Mason Ness) didnt play against us (Sept. 16) and he is a very good running back. They are coached well and very aggressive on defense.”

Lien has thrown the ball very well at times, said Sweeney, with Ness making some big catches,  and running backs Jake Uglem, Tony Uglem, Chase Morlock, Drake Benedict and Zack Day all having success.

Elk River is coming off a 42-20 loss to St. Michael-Albertville in the conference finale and then a week off with the bye, so the Elks are eager to try get back in the win column.

The other semifinal has No. 2 Brainerd hosting No. 3 St Cloud Tech at 2 p.m. The championship game will be held Saturday, Nov. 5, at St. Cloud State, 1 p.m.