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Osakis defense dominates in opener

Osakis' Wyatt Olson lowers his pads before powering his way through a hole near the goal line in his team's 40-0 win over Browerville last Thursday night. (Eric Morken/Echo Press)

The Osakis football team was eager to break out a new defense that the Silverstreaks hoped would take Browerville by surprise in the season opener last Thursday night.

Mission accomplished. Osakis dominated on that side of the ball on its way to a 40-0 win that snapped a seven-game losing streak to their rivals from the Prairie Conference.

The new 3-5 defense, which has three down linemen doing the dirty work up front, allowing five linebackers and three defensive backs to roam more freely, stifled the Tigers' attack all night. The Silverstreaks implemented the new scheme under defensive coordinator Chris Stroup through August and executed it almost perfectly in their first chance to show it off against another opponent.

"We were able to bring something to Browerville that they didn't expect," head coach Bill Infanger said. "The first game of the season, they don't have film on you going in, so it really helps to come out with a completely new scheme. Coach Stroup did a great job of getting these guys to play against the option. We did a better job tonight than we've done for a long time."

It was the defense that did most of the scoring in the first half. The first big play came on a blitz from junior linebacker Tyler Spanswick. He broke through the line untouched on a fourth-down play at Osakis' 10-yard line. Spanswick got to Browerville quarterback Jackson Polak and forced a fumble. Senior Joey Kotek did the rest, scooping and scoring on a run of more than 80 yards.

"That's what started us," Kotek said. "I saw Tyler go up and hit him, the ball went loose and I went as fast as I could into that end zone. I think it really helped us start the game off. If [Tyler] wouldn't have done that, I wouldn't have gotten the recovery. It was very important."

That set the tone before junior fullback Wyatt Olson added a short touchdown run in the second quarter. Then it was senior Hunter Scherr's turn to make a big play. He stepped in front of a Polak pass for an interception and took it almost 65 yards for a score that gave his team all the momentum and an 18-0 lead.

"The play before, my coach, I played it a little differently but he adjusted me," Scherr said. "Once I got that down, he threw the ball and I got it and once I started running, just looked back and decided I had to go faster because they were all catching up to me. It was one of the greatest feelings ever."

The Silverstreaks never looked back from there. Turnovers and penalties in the first half stymied a few of their drives on offense. They turned things around after the break with three offensive touchdowns, including a 38-yard run by senior Trey Erie on a fourth-and-three play. Sophomore Joey Garcia and freshman Glenn Seela then added touchdowns with their chance to play late in the fourth quarter.

"We could not have asked for a better start to our season," senior center Peter Hagen said. "We're not certain at this point that this is going to be the toughest game of our season as it has been sometimes, but this is just getting momentum our way. I feel like now we're going to have that much more energy every day at practice."

It was the way they beat the Tigers that really had these players fired up. They didn't just end a long losing streak against Browerville, but the Silverstreaks posted their first shutout since beating New York Mills 49-0 on October 1, 2010.

It's a new defensive scheme that allows for a lot of blitzing by the linebackers as their linemen take on blocks up front. That aggressive style is one the players said they love to play.

"I like it," senior tackle Lane Arkfeld said. "It's a lot more effective. It's a lot more efficient. It works."

It certainly worked against the Tigers in a season opener that was almost a perfect start for this team. The only negative was a big one, though, as Spanswick was lost for the foreseeable future with a broken leg.

The 195-pound junior took a handoff in the second quarter and got a first down before taking a hit to his leg. He hit the ground in severe pain and was eventually taken off by ambulance on a stretcher after having his leg stabilized.

Losing a two-way starter will be an obstacle this team has to overcome the rest of the way. But at least for one night, the Silverstreaks showed they could survive it with an impressive team display that got them to 1-0.

"It will be really tough because he's our Mike linebacker and he's one of our two fullbacks that we wanted to rotate in all year long and even as a junior, he's a leader on our team," Infanger said of Spanswick. "It's going to be really tough to play without him for at least 6-8 weeks now, but the thing I really like is that our Mike linebacker and our starting fullback goes down and we don't miss a beat. We just keep rolling and that was the most impressive thing. The guys really picked it up for Tyler tonight."

Eric Morken

Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.

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