Orono has won last 30 meetings as
two 4-0 teams face off in battle for “The Anchor”
by Bryan Zollman
There will be more at stake tonight than a first loss on the season when undefeated teams Mound Westonka and Orono face each other at Mound Westonka.
“The War On The Shore” has been a battle between the two schools that has gone on since their first match up in 1955. Since then there have been 43 games between the two rivals. The kicker? Mound Westonka won the first 12 meetings and Orono has won the last 30, including a 22-21 Section 6AAAA win in 2021 to bounce the White Hawks from the playoffs.
“Every time the two communities play it’s a fun event,” said Orono Head Coach Joe McPherson. “The tradition is really special for both communities and no one ever wants to lose to the other side. At the same time, the respect each community has for the other is amazing.”
The traveling trophy is dubbed “The Anchor” and the winning school is allowed to keep it until they lose. It has been in Orono’s possession since 1985. A plate on the trophy tracks the score of very match up since the inaugural 1955 contest. It doesn’t matter if it’s a regular season or playoff game, The Anchor is always on the line.
“Two years ago our game was an absolute dog fight,” said Mound Westonka Head Coach Nick David. “Though we didn’t come out on top, that type of game is what we expect to be in when we play Orono.”
The two teams didn’t meet last season when Mound Westonka went 8-1 and Orono finished 6-5. This season both are 4-0 and ranked in the top 10 in 4A. This year they are playing for more than just a trophy.
“This is a big game because it will most likely decide the high seed in sections and also determine the winner of our regular season sub-district,” said McPherson.
That, along with the trophy, is enough motivation for these two schools and communities to get hyped for the Friday night affair between the Lake Minnetonka communities just 10 minutes apart.
“Our players grow up playing and competing against Orono in every sport and activity which makes our rivalry so fun,” said David.
David is entering his 11th year as the sideline steward for the White Hawks. A Morristown, MN native, he graduated from Waterville-Elysian-Morristown and played defensive tackle at Gustavus Adolphus College where he was a four-year starter and two-time All -MIAC selection.
David said this year’s White Hawks squad has battled through some injuries, but have been resilient.
“ Every year the team is so different and that is what makes coaching high school sports so fun,” he said. “Year after year we coaches have a front row seat in seeing the growth both as players and as people amongst our team and that changes the whole dynamic. This year’s team is a really fun group to coach. They are really hard workers and resilient. They have embodied the ‘next man up’ mentality as we have battled through some tough injuries and haven’t missed a beat.”
They are led by junior running back Ray Beiningen who through the first four games has 748 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns. He is averaging 6.6 yards a carry for a team that is averaging 250 yards per game on the ground.
“Ray is an old-school hard-nosed running back that is one of the best finishers as a running back I have ever had the opportunity to coach,’ said David. “He is hard to bring down yet has the speed to pull away from defenders if he gets into the open field.”
The White Hawks also get it done in the trenches on both sides of the ball. Defensively they have recorded 18 sacks, an average of more than four per game while their offensive line has allowed just one sack.
Junior lineman Dylan Sloan (6-3/205) leads the team with four sacks. Junior linebacker Roman Larsen (5-9/190) has three and juniors Carter Kleinsasser (6-2/220), Beck Jenson (5-10/235) and Morgan Nester (6-2/280) each have two. The defense is allowing just 2.9 yards per carry and 56 yards on the ground per game.
“Coach David is a great coach,” said McPherson. “He has brought Mound football back to being a top contender each year. They are disciplined and play hard every game. It will be a battle on Friday night and our players know and respect what Mound football is all about.”
McPherson is a native of Nebraska and attended the University of Nebraska-Omaha where he played baseball for four years. He started serving as an assistant football coach at Orono in 2013 and took over the head position in 2019. He is also the head wrestling coach.
His Spartans will try to penetrate the strong defensive line of the White Hawks with their multi-pronged running attack that has five players with more than 100 yards on the season. They are averaging 244 yards on the ground per game.
Senior Liam Rodgers is their top back with 402 yards and four touchdowns with an average of 5.2 yards per carry. Senior Owen Barkley has 161 yards on 28 carries and three scores and fellow senior Gage Kracht has 119 yards on just 13 carries for an average of 9.2 yards. Senior Victor Ruhland (15 carries for 106 yards) and sophomore Rory Kvern (23 carries for 129 yards) round out the five-man running crew for the Spartans.
The Spartans aren’t afraid to throw the ball either with junior QB Charlie Cordes tossing for 563 yards on 36 completions and eight touchdowns. Junior George Perkins has caught 10 passes for 117 yards and senior tight end Brady McPherson has been solid in the red zone with three touchdown receptions. McPherson and Kracht are also the leading tacklers on defense and the Spartan secondary has five picks in the first four games, including two that have been returned for touchdowns (Ruhland and Frankie Stevenson).
“Orono is a well-coached program with a lot of talent up and down their roster,” said David. “They have built a culture of winning across the board in their athletic department both male and female.”
It all makes for a great match up between two formidable opponents – a “war” if you will.
“We are going to have to play really good football to bring The Anchor home,” said David. “They are very big on both the offensive and defensive lines and have a lot of length on the perimeter. The game is going to be a dog fight.”
The game is also serving as Mound Westonka’s homecoming, adding to the intensity of a long-standing rivalry.
“It’s always a great thing when you win on homecoming and win over a big rival,” David said. “With that, more than anything, we are using this game as our season’s mid-term exam. Yes, we want to bring The Anchor home. Yes, we want to win our homecoming game. Ultimately though, we want to use this game as a building block to help us become the best version of ourselves as we get closer to the postseason. It is our goal to play our best football late in October and November as we believe we have what it takes to make a run.”
While the White Hawks have the pressure of 30 consecutive losses, the Spartans have the pressure of holding on to The Anchor that has weighted down their trophy case for the past 30 meetings.
“It would be a great accomplishment for our team to win the War on the Shore trophy because of the deep tradition this rivalry has,” said McPherson. “We are lucky to have Mound back on the schedule every year and this trophy recognizes what two great football communities are all about.”