New to 9-man, SESM football has been rolling

The Knights have opened play 5-0 to begin the 2017 season

Nobody is sleeping on Sleepy Eye- St. Mary’s football as they compete for their first season in 9-Man. The Knights have yet to lose a game with their overall record sitting at 5-0.

St. Mary’s has taken the South-Central district by storm, crushing opponents with an average of 46.4 points per game. The slimmest margin-of-victory for the Knights thus far is 12 points in week two against Cedar Mountain-Comfrey on the road at Cedar Mountain High School.

Both sides of the ball are doing what they’re supposed to be doing for St. Mary’s. While the offense is scoring insurance points, the defense is holding its opponents to 15.6 points per game through five games.

The Knights have played three home games and two away games. There isn’t much difference in scoring patterns between home or road games for St. Mary’s. One might get nervous about that anomaly game against the Cougars, which is the only time so far this season that the Knights haven’t beaten an opponent by more than 20 points. The game against Cedar Mountain-Comfrey is also the only time when St. Mary’s hasn’t scored more than 40 points as they defeated the Cougars 32-20.

Point differential is usually a good indicator of which teams are “outkicking their coverage” and which teams are legitimate threats. St. Mary’s currently ranks second in both offense and defense in the district. Their positive 154 point differential sits only behind Cleveland/Immanuel Lutheran for best in the district. The offense boasts 232 points scored, again only trailing CIL for best in the district but a convincing 79 more points scored than the next closest Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart in third with 153.

The competition for top dog in the district is neck-neck-and-neck between St. Mary’s, CIL and Alden-Conger/Glenville-Emmons, all undefeated in district games but St. Mary’s remains the only team with an overall undefeated record.

The trend in the South-Central district of 9-Man seems to be that a good defense is a surefire way to bring success to your team. Ranked second for points allowed, the Knights have given up only 78 to the five opponents they’ve faced. CIL has allowed just seven more points than St. Mary’s and 13 more than the top defense at ACGE, also nicknamed the Knights.

The tight race to claim the title of “best defense” is on paper basically over for the teams ranked below the top three as the next closest is Nicollet in fourth, allowing 146 points, almost double the amount of points of the third-ranked Cougars.

At their current pace, the St. Mary’s Knights continue to make their way closer to the state tournament, hoping for their first appearance since 2013. The team has proven it can be efficient all-around the ball. Fresh off a 48-0 home win against West Lutheran, the Knights’ road ahead will be the toughest part of the schedule.

The remaining three teams on St. Mary’s calendar are all currently on winning streaks of at least three games. St. Mary’s visits the 3-2 Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart on Oct. 6; the Mustangs rebounded after beginning the season with two losses and now are on a three-game winning streak. Cleveland/Immanuel Lutheran, recently celebrating a 76-0 victory over Granada-Huntley-East Chain/Truman, will host the Knights on Friday, Oct. 13 when the Knights will most likely be packing their good-luck charms.

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