The Lakeville South football team averaged a whopping 10 points a game last season. Coach Tyler Krebs did the math: His team lost 400 yards on sacks and negative runs alone. Those plays led to bad situations, which often led to turnovers.
Something had to change. The Cougars’ defense was good enough to win games, but the offense wasn’t cutting it. The change wasn’t going to be the program’s size. Krebs, in his second year as Lakeville South coach since coming over from Burnsville, estimates the Cougars are roughly two years from being where they want to be in terms of size and strength.
“We as a staff talked and decided we need to do something offensively that eliminates mistakes and turnovers and eliminates negative yardage plays and goes forward,” Krebs said.
The answer was in Elk River.
Krebs has long known Elk River coach Steve Hamilton and respected the job he’s done with the Elks, who won a Class 5A state championship in 2016 and finished second last season. The key to the Elks’ success is their Straight T offense — a system with three running backs lined up side-by-side in the backfield that features enough fakes to bamboozle nearly any defense. The Elks regularly run over opponents.
Krebs watched Elk River film and was interested, so he contacted Hamilton. Krebs and his coaching staff went to Elk River to talk to Hamilton’s staff about the offense — Krebs was sold, but not everyone else was.
“Personally, I was a little skeptical,” Lakeville South running back Jared Stewart said. “I didn’t know how it would work with our team.”
Early on, not well. Through six weeks, the Cougars were 1-5 and still averaging just 10 points a game. But in the second half of that sixth game, Lakeville South found something.It moved George Brekke, the team’s best athlete, from quarterback to tight end and brought Reid Patterson in to take the snaps. Suddenly, the Patterson-to-Brekke combination gave the Cougars a passing option. In the second half of their Week 6 loss to Rosemount, Lakeville South outscored the Irish 15-0.
The Cougars haven’t looked back since. In their three ensuing games, they are averaging 48 points, including a 38-20 win over third-seeded Cretin-Derham Hall in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs, marking the only big school first-round upset. The sixth-seeded Cougars (4-5) play at second-seeded Champlin Park (7-2) on Friday night.
Stewart called the Cougars “a sleeper.” Lakeville South is certainly hitting its stride offensively, with everyone understanding their jobs and meshing together. Krebs credits Hamilton, who has exchanged film with him throughout the season and answered any and all questions about the offense. As for the lack of size? It doesn’t seem to matter. The Cougars have three running backs over 200 pounds. Meanwhile, their two guards — Max Hoffman and Josh Schultz — each weigh 165. Yeah, they’re sometimes 100 pounds lighter than the defensive linemen opposing them.
“It’s not as bad as you think, because we’re taught to get super low and go at the knees and shins,” Hoffman said. “They always say the lowest guy wins, so we usually end up doing pretty good.”
Particularly of late. In the regular-season finale, Lakeville South hung 59 points on Farmington.
“That was something we’ve never really ever experienced,” Stewart said.
Neither had the Cougars’ fans, who have endured mostly low-scoring slogs the past two seasons.
“They were kind of losing love for us until we started putting up points,” Hoffman said. “Now they’re back to supporting us a lot.”
Stewart admitted he’s now a full-on believer in the offense, and believes it can be a staple of the program for years to come. Since his team started scoring, Krebs said his players are more excited to be at practice, and embracing the work and repetition that comes with it.
Scoring is fun, as is winning.
“We always knew (this offense) was going to keep us in games, but I don’t think we really knew we were going to be able to score 40 or 50 points in a game until we did it,” Krebs said. “Now it’s like maybe we can do this to everybody. We don’t know. Let’s give it a shot, see what happens.”