Warren-Alvarado-Oslo to put unbeaten start to test against defending section champ Kittson County Central
Both the Ponies and the Bearcats are 5-0 at the top of Minnesota Section 8 9-man. The two face off Friday at 7 p.m. in Hallock.
WARREN, Minn. — Warren-Alvarado-Oslo football coach Tony Gullikson calls it stealing yards.
Offensively, the Ponies aren't a predetermined ground-and-pound offense or a high-flying passing attack.
It's a give-and-take for WAO, a philosophy that has the Ponies 5-0 heading into a showdown of unbeaten teams in Minnesota Section 8 9-man.
WAO travels to Kittson County Central for a 7 p.m. Friday kickoff in Hallock to play against the defending section champions.
Gullikson surrenders the run-pass decision making to quarterback Kaden Pierce who often has a decision between versatile 6-foot-3 running back Tyson Mortimer and 6-foot-6 wide receiver Jackson Woinarowicz.
"If (the defense) overplays the run, we pass to the edge," Gullikson said. "A couple of teams have doubled Woinarowicz and that's when Mortimer has big rushing games. When teams stack the box, that's when our receivers and quarterback are doing well passing."
Pierce is 43-for-64 for 696 yards, seven touchdowns and two interceptions this year.
Mortimer has 98 carries for 681 yards and five touchdowns. He also can split out to wide receiver, as he has 12 catches for 184 yards and two scores.
Woinarowicz has 14 grabs for 309 yards (22.1 yards per catch) and three touchdowns.
"I think a big part of it is wearing teams down," Mortimer said. "We get a lot more subs in. Sometimes we're able to jump to a lead and that can demoralize the other team."
Pierce has thrown for more than 100 yards in three games so far this year.
"Kaden is such a good decision-maker," Gullikson said. "We put a lot on the quarterback's shoulders. Every play we have a pass and run alternative. It's tough for coaches to give up that control but we do. He's shooting about 80 percent on what decision we would've made as coaches."
The Ponies will have their hands full with KCC, one of the top 9-man programs in the state the past two years.
The Bearcats are led by 5-foot-8 senior running back Chisum Schmiedeberg, who has 93 carries for 1,063 yards and 14 touchdowns. He's averaging 212 yards per game.
"If we have any success at all (against KCC), we have to make them work all the way down the field," Gullikson said. "They have a real nice run attack and most of their scores come off 35-plus yards."
In addition to the diminutive Schmiedeberg, KCC also has big bodies.
Kaden Vig has 248 receiving yards and defensively Vig has 51 tackles and nine sacks.
Lineman Isaac Folland, a 6-foot-3, 330-pound UND commitment, plays center and defensively has 34 tackles and 4.0 tackles for loss.
"We have four sophomores on the line," Gullikson said. "We are undersized against every team, and Kittson will be no exception. We have to trust our teammates to do their job so we can do ours. We can't compensate by tackling across the field and not staying home."
Mortimer said the Ponies know they're in for a challenge.
"They've been the talk since Week 1 — Kittson, Kittson, Kittson," Mortimer said. "I think we now feel a bit more confidence. We know it'll be a battle but we have settled in with our confidence. We're not overconfident. They'll give us a run, but I think it's going to be a good game. We have nothing to lose."