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Tom Mix, Published August 27 2012

Moorhead HS football preview capsule

Last fall didn’t start out the way the Moorhead football team had hoped.

The Spuds lost their first three games of the season, but recovered to win back-to-back conference games against Willmar and Fergus Falls.

“We kind of had our ups and downs early on in the season,” Moorhead football coach Kevin Feeney said. “We had some games where we didn’t finish, and that has been a big focus for us this year is being more consistent in the regular season and finishing, whether it is finishing a drive, a quarter or a game.”

After a road loss to St. Cloud Tech, Moorhead defeated Class 5A, Section 8 rival Brainerd at home.

The win over the Warriors got the Spuds going in the right direction heading into the section playoffs.

In the Section 8 playoffs, the Spuds rattled off three consecutive wins over Duluth East, Elk River and a 24-20 victory over Brainers to win the section crown and earn a state playoff berth.

The Spuds season came to an end with a loss to perennial state football power Wayzata in the 5A quarterfinals.

Outlook

This fall, Moorhead’s football program moves into its third year under Feeney. The senior class has come of age in the former North Dakota State standout’s system and could thrive with the continuity.

Feeney said the comfort level of coaches and players within the program is much improved from the first two years.

“This is the first group that has gone through the entire way with us as a staff,” Feeney said. “This is their third fall camp. Our expectation is to play a lot better football on a consistent basis.”

One key change in the Minnesota football landscape is the creation of the 6A division, which includes the likes of Twin Cities suburban juggernauts Wayzata and Eden Prairie.

The large-school division means Moorhead will now play in a much more competitive 5A division, which will have 48 total schools with eight sections that will have six teams apiece.

The only team that moves up from the old Class 5A, Section 8 is Brainerd. And even with Eden Prairie and Wayzata out of the picture, Feeney said the Spuds still have to treat the regular season with high importance. The QRF rankings in Minnesota will determine the two teams that will get first-round byes in the section playoffs for 5A schools.

“Expectations are very high within our program,” Feeney said. “I think if you asked our staff and our players the (Metrodome) certainly is our goal. We are more focused on our section and our regular-season schedule.

“It is going to be key for us to get that No. 1 or No. 2 seed for the section playoffs. The 6A division affects 5A once you get to the state tournament, but it really doesn’t affect us at all during the regular season.”

One key question mark for the Spuds in fall camp has been the offensive line, which is completely rebuilt from last season.

“We have to replace all five guys on our offensive line,” Feeney said. “We have a lot of experience there as far as a lot of juniors and seniors that have played in our program, played through our system for a couple years now. They just don’t have a lot of varsity experience.

“We got to develop that offensive line in a hurry and create some depth on our offensive and defensive lines.”

Skill position-wise, the Spuds return quite a bit of talent from last season.

Running back Chase Morlock, quarterback Aaron Lien and receiver Brandon Porter make up a senior offensive core for the Spuds.

“Our strength is going to be our overall team speed,” Feeney said. “We feel like we have gotten faster each year we have been here. That is a credit to the kids and the offseason training program they have been on. We return a lot of guys that have carried the football or have had the ball in their hands the last couple of years. Chase Morlock has been a starter ever since his sophomore year and Aaron Lien is a guy who has played in a lot of football games. … To have that kind of experience in the back field we got to lean on that early.”