Three years ago, the Morris and Minooka football rivalry was rekindled. Considering the entertainment value of the games over the past two years, it’s safe to say fans of the Redskins and Indians have gotten their money’s worth.
Two years ago, Morris won the game 27-21, and last year it was another one-score game when the Redskins came away victoriously 14-6. Much the same type of game is expected when the two teams kick off the season Friday at 7 p.m. in Morris.
Morris coach Alan Thorson has been on board for the season opener with Minooka all three years. For the Indians, this will be coach Paulie Forsythe’s second go on the sideline after he replaced Bert Kooi after the 2011 season. Both know what to expect from the other team when the whistle blows.
“The first game is always a challenge, but it’s exciting as well,” Thorson said. “The kids are excited for the start of the football season after a long offseason, and starting the season off with Minooka just makes the first game even more exciting for the kids and the two communities.”
Forsythe mentioned the season opener is challenging for a number of reasons, no matter who the Indians may be lining up at the line of scrimmage against.
“Big games early in the season exploit weaknesses at times,” he said. “The challenge is we know we’re going to learn about ourselves early in the season. Right away, we’ll know where we are at and what things we need to get better at for the following week.”
Morris and Minooka have been playing football against each other intermittently since the first encounter in 1991. Fans of the rivalry have seen it and know what to expect again this year.
“Minooka always has good athletes, and you know that they are going to be excited to play us,” Thorson said. “It’s always a good game.”
Forsythe said the Indians know they can expect “physical play on both sides of the ball” from Morris while adding that the Redskins also traditionally bring solid special teams play. He added he thinks the game likely will come down to three things.
“Turnovers. Field position and big-play margin,” he said.
Thorson feels that fumbles and interceptions almost always will turn the tide on the field.
“I think that turnovers have been huge the past two games (against Minooka),” he said. “Minimizing turnovers will be very important to victory.”
Getting the season off on the right foot is of the utmost concern for both the Redskins and the Indians. That unveiling of the curtain will show the fans of each community what has gone on behind the scenes since last November.
“We try every year to hold our kids accountable if they want to be a part of our football program,” Forsythe said. “That means they train together in the offseason and participate in our strength and conditioning program. Usually the level of buy-in with this is a pretty good indicator of how the season will go. We use that as a springboard to the season.”
Thorson said the high expectations on his team this year after the Redskins made it to the state finals for the 10th time in school history last fall are no different than any other year.
“We have always just focused on ourselves and getting better as a team each week,” he said. “There are always high expectations surrounding Morris, we don’t get caught up in that [hype]. We focus on our team and our goals.”