Joining the laker legends
In football, the term “red zone” is referred to as when an offensive unit moves the ball within the opponents’ 20-yard line.
It’s territory where defenses stiffen up, while offenses start looking at the pylons and the eventual six-point play.
For the Detroit Lakes offensive unit, it usually means a touchdown when they visit the red zone and over half the time, it’s senior quarterback Michael Herzog who is busting past the goal line.
Herzog has made such a habit of scoring touchdowns, that he has leapt over some Laker legends in the record book to become DLHS’ all-time scoring leader, eclipsing Todd Steinmetz’ 278 career points, he set in years 1994-96.
Last Friday, Herzog scored two touchdowns from within the red zone against East Grand Forks on rushes of four and one yards, thus putting him alone at the top of the scoring list with 282 points.
This year alone, Herzog has notched 78 points on 13 rushing touchdowns in just four games, which is despite missing DL’s Homecoming affair against Staples-Motley.
It’s a mark Herzog never set his sights on, but now that he’s reached it, is proud to join such an elite group of former Lakers.
“Looking at the list of the all-time leading scorers in DL, is just an exceptional list with many great players,” Herzog said. “It’s the coolest thing that my name will be tossed in there now.”
Last year, Herzog was eight points shy of breaking Ryan Manke’s 150 single season scoring mark he set in 1999.
Herzog also led the team in scoring his sophomore season when he played running back and slotback, where he scored seven rushing touchdowns, two receiving TDs, one interception return for six points and a two-point conversion reception for 62 points.
But the last two seasons as DL’s quarterback, the team’s red zone efficiency is off the charts.
This year alone in five games, DL has visited the opponents’ red zone 15 times, resulting in 14 touchdowns, nine of which have ended as a Herzog touchdown.
“That’s where we take pride as a team,” Herzog said of the red zone success. “That’s where everyone has to do their job.”
With football being the ultimate team sport, scoring a touchdown is rarely an individual effort.
The offensive line which has blocked for Herzog has an obvious effect on how he is able to lead the offense.
This year’s version of the offensive line is one of the largest for a Laker squad in quite some time.
“It’s 100-percent the offensive line,” Herzog said. “I can only recall one touchdown where it was an individual effort which helped me get into the end zone (which came in last year’s Section 8-4A championship game against Rocori).
“Other than that, the rest of them have been 11 guys doing their job, including the receivers blocking downfield.”
Senior running back Jarett Nosal is also a balancing effect on defenses, which have to account for the speedy, but strong, runner.
Nosal leads the Lakers in rushing this season with 574 yards for an unconventionally high 11.9 yards per carry average. He also has five rushing touchdowns on the season, but four of them have come from 30 yards or more out.
Herzog has collected 399 rushing yards for a very respectable yards per carry average of 6.5 yards.
“Jarett is having a great year, whenever the line can get a block for him, he can break one,” said DL head coach Flint Motschenbacher. “Michael has been the focus of our offense for the last two seasons and he is a three-year starter, so his numbers start to add up. He’s been very efficient.”
Motschenbacher has now witnessed two of DL’s most proficient scorers, after he saw Steinmetz carry the Lakers to a state title in 1995 and three state playoff appearances, as well.
“Todd was very similar to Michael, because he was very strong and quick for his size,” Motschenbacher said. “Todd was in a very similar situation and they are very much alike. Michael is a little more physical, but with the veer, the quarterback carries the ball quite a bit.”
It’s that physicality in which the bulked-up Herzog brings which makes it hard on defenders.
With a big, physical offensive line in front of him, Herzog usually makes it to the second level of the defense without being touched. By the end of the third quarter, linebackers and secondary defenders are wanting less and less to do with tackling the Laker QB.
“The offensive line does a really good job picking up linebackers and picking up seven to eight defenders out there,” Herzog said. “I’d sooner hit a safety than a linebacker. If it comes down to getting a first down, there’s nothing better than running over a player to get it.
“Hey, they have the right to hit me as a tackler, I just want to make them pay for doing it.”
But one thing Steinmetz and Herzog don’t have in common is a state championship.
Herzog helped lead the Lakers to the Class 4A state playoffs last year, which broke a 10-year drought for DL, but it ended with a four-overtime classic against Princeton in ther quarterfinals.
Herzog already knows how it feels to be a state champion, as he has been an integral part of two state titles for the Laker boys’ golf team.
“If you want to be remembered, you have to win a state title,” Herzog said. “There would be no better feeling than helping win a state championship along with the other 60 to 70 other players on this team.”
No matter the outcome of his senior season, Herzog has made his mark in Laker lore, it’s just most of his imprints are in the opposing teams’ end zones.