It wasn’t what Jody Stone expected, but the Shakopee coach knows that a road victory over a ranked team is something to be proud of, no matter how it happens.
In the end, the difference came down to something as simple as a hop.
Faced with an opponent with superior team speed, Shakopee coach Jody Stone had the Sabers spend the week leading up to their game at Holy Angels working on counter-measures. He had his defense spend extra time at practice preparing for the Stars assault on the edges, making sure that his rough-and-ready defense would be in right place to prevent big plays.
“Holy Angels is a perimeter team,” Stone said. “We worked on getting outside and swarming to the ball.”
On offense, the Shakopee offense – a one-team history lesson with its commitment to running an old school single-wing offense – had prepared a set of passing plays designed to take advantage of the Holy Angels’ anticipated commitment to stopping the run.
The defense worked. The passing game nearly did not.
Until scoring a lone touchdown on a desperation drive late in the fourth quarter, Holy Angels had managed just six first downs – just two after halftime.
But the offense wasn’t getting the results it was used to. Turnovers, regrettable decisions and wind-blown passes
that weren’t finding their targets had Shakopee’s offense – an offense that had scored more than 40 points in four of its first five games -- spinning its wheels.
“I can usually count on us getting three or four touchdowns and a field goal,” Stone said. “But we kept hurting ourselves with mistakes. That’s not to take anything away from Holy Angels because that’s a good team. But we’re not used to that.”
With its running game also not finding the holes it needed, something different needed to be done. So Sabers quarterback Zak Hoffman just did what came naturally: he started jumping over the Holy Angels defensive linemen.
“They were undercutting our lineman,” Hoffman said. “There weren’t any holes to run through. So I started jumping over them.”
And Shakopee started putting together long drives. Hoffman’s hurdles didn’t result in huge gains. Too often the Holy Angels defense was waiting for him when he landed.
His 30 rushes resulted in 117 yards, less than four yards per carry, and his longest gain was 12 yards.
But the damage was been done as each time Hoffman left the ground. He left his feet often enough and the Sabers began moving the chains.
“We had this game circled on our calendar all year long,” Hoffman said. “We knew they’d be tough. It just feels great to win.”