More than wins and losses, Litchfield football coach Jim Jackman believes in the mantra that constant improvement is the measure of a good team.
Of course, constant improvement often leads to wins.
Such is the case for the 2019 Dragons, who reeled off their second consecutive win last week, beating winless Holy Family 40-14 on the road.
The win gave Litchfield a 2-3 record overall, 2-2 in the Wright County Conference-West, heading into a game against Dassel-Cokato Friday. Dassel-Cokato is 4-1 overall, 2-1 in conference.
“Whenever you play Dassel-Cokato, you can kind of throw the records away,” Jackman said. “Traditionally, we’ve had very good games with D-C.”
But Jackman also sees the improvement his team has made in recent weeks, and believes it’s on track.
“We’ve really worked on fundamentals and getting kids to recognize what they’re doing well (and) what they need to work on,” Jackman said. “The key is getting the kids to play and to compete and get better. That’s the big piece of it.”
The getting better part was evidenced in the Dragons’ win over Holy Family, coming on the heels of an impressive 54-7 win over Watertown-Mayer the previous week.
Litchfield had a 100-yard rusher for the second consecutive game. This time it was junior quarterback Ben Alsleben, who carried the ball 18 times for 101 yards, the result of reading the Holy Family defense well — and of an improved offensive line, Jackman said.
“Early on in the season, with some of the changes we’ve made, sometimes the running game takes a little bit more time,” Jackman said. “Sometimes it takes longer for the line to start gelling together. We’ve made an effort with some of the scheme things we’ve done, too, to improve the run.
“And Ben had some nice runs,” Jackman added. “His reads and his choices were good. He has pre-snap read, then obviously, a read once the play starts. Based on the defensive end, based on his play … that’s what makes what we’re doing a little more challenge. There’s some choices there (and) it puts a lot of pressure on Ben that he has to be pretty on top of his game identifying what the defense is doing.”
Continuing the play will be important as the Dragons travel to Dassel-Cokato. The Chargers’ defense has given up 61 points in their first five games. Dassel-Cokato comes into the game off a 28-21 win over Glencoe-Silver Lake, a team Litchfield lost to in the third game of the season, 21-14.
“Their defense is very disciplined, very good,” Jackman said of D-C. “We have to continue to get better.”
And that’s not just heading into Friday’s contest at Dassel-Cokato. The Dragons hit their toughest stretch of the season beginning this week. After D-C, they meet undefeated Albany on Oct. 11 at home, then travel to New London-Spicer, 4-1, on Oct. 16.
“They’re all teams we feel we can play with,” Jackman said, “but all that we will have to play very well against.”
Litchfield 40, Holy Family 14
Litchfield … 12 8 14 7 — 40
Holy Family … 0 6 0 8 — 14
L — Ben Alsleben 2 run (kick failed)
L — Logan Graphenteen 30 pass from Alsleben (pass failed)
L — Alsleben 1 run (Graphenteen pass from Alsleben)
HF — Sam Schultz 16 pass from Victor Baltierrez (kick failed)
L — Alsleben 3 run (kick failed)
L — Alsleben 9 run (Sergio Martinez kick)
L — Graphenteen 30 pass from Alsleben (Martinez kick)
H — Noah Schumacher 35 run (Schumacher pass from Tory Pumper)
First downs 12. Penalties 6-45. Rushing: Sergio Martinez 8-33, Patrick Benson 7-39, Ben Alsleben 18-101, Bennet Lecher 2-5. Passing: Alsleben 9-16-0 162. Receiving: Graphenteen 4-103, Lecher 4-51, Drew Kotzer 1-8. Tackles: Mason St. Pierre 9, Dylan Kotzer 7, Bryce Penk 6, Carter Block 6. Sacks: St. Pierre ½, Jack Ramthun ½, Eddie Simes 1.
First downs 6. Penalties 2-10. Rushing: 37-67. Passing: 8-13-0 114.