Centennial football coach Mike Diggins said he heard preseason projections that his Cougars would not win a game.
Yet the Cougars are 4-1, thanks in large part to a stingy defense. The unit has pitched 11 consecutive quarters of shutout football, including blankings of Armstrong and Anoka.
“Our defense is playing really well,” Diggins said. “We switched our defensive scheme this year but we have an older group of kids who responded really well.”
The Cougars are getting the most out of some new faces plugged into an alignment of four linemen, two linebackers and five defensive backs to better counter spread offenses.
Linebacker Max Cory, a converted quarterback, and fellow linebacker Michael Major are playing at an “all-conference, all-state kind of level,” Diggins said.
Defensive tackle Kodie Sickmann, a former tight end playing in his first season on the defensive line, is one of “the bit players who bought into playing his role,” Diggins said.
Cornerback Michael Pierson ranks among team leaders in tackles and provides the Cougars solid talent at all three levels.
The unit allowed a first-quarter touchdown to Elk River, then held the Elks, Armstrong and Anoka without a point. Champlin Park broke the streak when it scored a first-quarter touchdown last week in a 35-12 Centennial victory.
“We don’t offer these guys any sort of incentive for shutouts,” Diggins said. “It’s kind of their job and they take pride in shutting teams down.”
Diggins is quick to point out, however, that the four teams Centennial defeated have managed a combined record of 3-17. A “huge test” awaits against No. 2 Maple Grove (5-0), Diggins said.
“They are so fast, so good and so well coached,” Diggins said. “It’s going to be a challenge but our kids are believing in themselves right now.”
Rugby at TCF Bank Stadium
The fifth annual RugbyDayMinnesota takes place Oct. 12 at TCF Bank Stadium.
It features five high-profile rugby matches, including the Gophers men’s team playing Iowa and the Gophers women’s team playing Iowa State.
In addition, a Minnesota high school girls’ select side match will be played. Tickets cost $5.