"I think we'll run the ball better because our line is more athletic than last year," Esch said. "We have some running backs who have emerged, and Ryan is running the ball better. I think we're better throwing the ball downfield because we have some receivers who can stretch the field."
Waseca QB record
Waseca senior quarterback Thomas O'Neil tied a school record when he threw five touchdown passes in Friday's 34-28 overtime victory against St. Croix Lutheran. He completed 19 of 35 passes for 277 yards, with three touchdowns to senior Jacob Laube and two to senior Lucas Johnson.
"We've always had big, move-the-pile running backs, and this year, we have good, fast backs," Waseca coach Brad Wendland said. "We have a good receiver group so we're trying to change things offensively to take advantage of that."
In two games, O'Neil has passed for 377 yards and five scores, and rushed for 487 yards and five touchdowns, getting 212 yards and five touchdowns rushing in the season-opener at Little Falls. He set a school record by scoring 32 points against Little Falls.
Last season, O'Neil passed for 523 yards and five touchdowns and rushed for 274 yards and five touchdowns.
"He just wasn't healthy last year," Wendland said. "He had his knee (operated on) about two weeks before the season, and we didn't want him to take too many hits. He played in every game, but he was always so sore and it looked like he was in pain all the time.
"It's been great to see what he can do when he's healthy."
Waseca (2-0) plays its first home game Friday against St. Peter (2-0).
NRHEG ends streak
When New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva defeated Waterville-Elysian-Morristown 21-12 on Friday at New Richland, it broke the Panthers' five-year losing streak against their Gopher Valley AA Conference rivals.