Wayzata will count on a fairly anonymous but wildly successful group of defenders when it takes on Rosemount for the Class 5A championship Friday.

By DAVID LA VAQUE, Star Tribune

Now in his seventh season directing Wayzata’s often-smothering defense, assistant coach Matt Lombardi is scheming a plan to beat Rosemount in Friday’s Class 5A Prep Bowl showdown.

The top-ranked Trojans (10-0) rode their defense through the past month. The 16 points scored by Mounds View in the fourth quarter of last week’s semifinal game ended a 15-quarter shutout streak. The other downside to the Trojans’ 21-16 victory: Mounds View succeeded at running right at their lighter defenders — a game plan No. 4 Rosemount (12-0) and its option offense is sure to follow.

“They have some massive people inside,” Lombardi said. “We’ll have to play low and fast.”

Low and fast, the way warplanes elude detection by radar, might be the secret to the Trojans’ success this season. Four Division I recruits gave Wayzata’s 2009 defense some name recognition. The current defense, despite its performances, remains a mostly anonymous unit.

“They know they are a faceless defense,” Lombardi said. “Earlier this season some of the seniors wanted to get those same accolades. But they’ve realized our success will come from playing well as a group, and they’ve taken a lot of pride in that.”

Lombardi sets the tone for cumulative success by mixing and matching players to best fit his schemes. His father, Robert Lombardi, a member of the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame, uses the same philosophy on offense. For Matt, being a coach’s son paid dividends.

“I learned more at the dinner table than anywhere,” Matt said.

When Lombardi arrived at Wayzata, he brought a complex system based on simple terms. His defenders don’t even have a playbook.

“There are probably 4,000 different calls, but there are about three words that tell me where to go,” defensive end Scott Siegel said.

Siegel knows his playing time depends on what opposing offenses like to do. While the faster Tucker Kline, a 5-10, 195-pound defensive tackle, made 10 tackles and two sacks in the quarterfinals against Blaine’s spread offense, Siegel spent more time on the sideline.

One week later, the 6-1, 229-pound Siegel tormented Mounds View’s run-heavy attack with eight tackles, six for loss.

“I like to do the muckier stuff inside,” Siegel said. “I’m a bigger person, so it’s kind of hard to move me.”

Siegel said he is “not sure if I’ll leave the field much” against run-first Rosemount. Trojans safety David Boegel knows the feeling. Boegel is a rare three-year starter. Not even linebacker James Laurinaitis, a three-time All-America at Ohio State and current member of the St. Louis Rams, matched that feat.

Lombardi said the 5-10, 175-pound Boegel is the Trojans’ version of Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu — a player with the speed and smarts to make plays in all situations. Boegel, who leads the team in tackles, recorded a sack against Mounds View and also knocked down the Mustangs’ final pass attempt.

“I know Lombo is counting on me to do everything right,” Boegel said. “He puts me in a position to make plays so I want to be the guy who goes out and sacrifices my body to make the team better.”

Lombardi said the defense improved throughout the season, culminating in a “staggering” run to the state championship game.

“I give the kids all the credit,” Lombardi said. “We’re little, but we’ve learned there is an expectation on the defense to be pretty good. And these kids believe they’ll stop you.”


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