After a competitive regular season to stay in the top half of the Minnesota Section 8A standings, Polk County West will begin its playoff journey against Fosston on Tuesday with its sights set not only on Fosston but a shot at taking down Manhomen-Waubun.
Had it not been for a rainy night against Ada/Borup, the Thunder could have been at the top of the Section 8A standings. In that game, they had five turnovers that the Cougars used to win 12-7 and give the Thunder their only loss of the regular season.
“We haven’t turned the ball over at that level since then. We’ve improved on things, gotten better and we’ve moved on from it,” Polk County West coach Darrin Byklum said.
The next two games saw Polk County take care of Lake Park-Audubon and New York Mills by rushing for a combined 733 yards. Sam Gapp was the leader on the ground with his 198 and 208-yard performances, respectively, along with six touchdowns in those two games.
This regular season he totaled 1,190 yards and 16 touchdowns and averaged 11.9 yards per carry.
Gapp has been the star for the Thunder, but when playoff action comes depth at every position can go a long way. Byklum was pleased by the performance of freshman David Larson running the ball.
Larson ran for 73 yards on 10 attempts and allowed Gapp and others in the offense to shift around to generate other looks before heading into the quarterfinals.
“David came in against Mills and we were able to move Sam around some and take some pressure off him. He came in and did a great job so we were able to find a little diamond in the rough there. Everyone knows Sam is our go-to guy but we found out we have more depth there and tailback than we had before,” he said.
Now heading into the quarterfinal matchup against Fosston the Thunder meet a familiar foe that they handled well earlier in the regular season. Back in September Gapp rushed for 180 yards and two touchdowns in a 42-6 win.
The Greyhounds will certainly be looking to seek revenge and change things after going winless on the year by playing spoiler, but the Thunder are in cruise control heading into Tuesday.
“There isn’t anything different. We’re just going to show up and play some football. I think things will take care of themselves if we do what we do,” said Byklum. “They have stayed pretty grounded, but they know what’s ahead. We’ve talked about needing to win this one in order to move on.”
What’s ahead could be Manhomen-Waubun, who went 7-1 during the regular season with their only loss coming against Ada/Borup as well.
But before that, it will be Polk County against Fosston on Tuesday. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.