Dragons dodge Wildcats, 42-7
ADRIAN -- Scoring on their first six possessions and utilizing a bruising rushing attack that netted 311 yards and six touchdowns Tuesday night, the fourth-seeded Adrian Dragons claimed a 42-7 victory over the fifth-seeded Southwestern United Wildcats in the first round of the Section 3A football tournament.
Adrian (5-4) advances to the section semifinals Saturday afternoon, as the Dragons will travel to take on top-seeded Wabasso at 3 p.m. SWU finishes its season with a record of 3-6.
"We controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball," Adrian head coach Randy Strand said after the game. "This was our best game of the year, as our backs ran the ball hard, and our defense came out and hit pretty hard for the most part."
Jesse Brake was Adrian's featured back, as he carried the ball 25 times for 160 yards and three touchdowns. Quarterback Brett Nowotny, who completed all four of his pass attempts for 78 yards, added 13 carries for 60 yards and a pair of scores, while Brandon Aggen produced the Dragons' final touchdown with a 3-yard run in the fourth quarter.
SWU, which gained 128 rushing yards on the night, started the game with the ball at its own 34-yard line, but Adrian's defense forced a punt after just three plays.
Beginning at their own 41-yard line, the Dragons gave the ball to Brake for six consecutive carries -- including a 35-yard tackle-breaking burst -- to move the ball to the Wildcats' 2-yard line.
Nowotny followed with a pair of 1-yard sneaks up the middle, with the second plunge (on fourth down) propelling him across the goal line for a touchdown. Adam Diekmann booted the extra point, and Adrian had a 7-0 lead with 7:10 to go in the first quarter.
Diekmann (five carries for 45 yards) intercepted a pass on the ensuing possession, setting up the Dragons at their own 42-yard line. Seven plays later, Adrian scored again.
Nowotny completed a 15-yard pass to Danny Parsley on the second play of the series before gaining 18 yards on a keeper along the right sideline and later finding Diekmann with a 22-yard strike. Brake capped the drive with a 6-yard touchdown burst, and Diekmann's point-after kick with 59 seconds remaining in the opening period made it 14-0 Dragons.
Adrian increased the lead to 21-0 on its next possession, as Brock Bullerman reeled off a 29-yard surge around the left side to help set up a 12-yard touchdown run by Nowotny at the 7:05 mark of the second quarter. Diekmann again was good on the kick.
"Our offensive line created some nice holes, and our backs did a good job of finding those seams," Strand said. "We were able to control things a little bit with our running and did a good job of finishing our drives with touchdowns."
SWU answered with its only scoring drive of the night to trim the score to 21-7 with 4:26 to go in the second quarter, as the tough inside running of Cory Pelzel (eight carries for 46 yards) sparked the Wildcats.
Pelzel carried the ball four times for 33 yards on the seven-play, 60-yard possession, busting tackles and staying on his feet for a 15-yard burst on the third play and then capping the march with an incredible eight-yard touchdown run up the middle.
Octavio Jimenez tacked on the extra point and then boomed the ensuing kickoff to Adrian's goal line, and the Wildcats' coverage team racked up the Dragons at the 16-yard line.
However, Adrian put together a 12-play, 84-yard drive to take a 28-7 lead just before halftime -- scoring with 20 seconds left on a 2-yard touchdown dive by Brake. Diekmann, who kicked his fourth straight extra point after the score, started the possession with a nifty 26-yard run, and the Dragons continued to pound the ball on the ground on their way to the end zone.
Adrian widened the gap to 35-7 on the first possession of the second half, as Brake finished a 10-play, 75-yard march with a 3-yard touchdown run at the 7:11 mark of the third quarter. Diekmann made it five extra points in a row.
The two big plays on that series were a 19-yard run by Brake and a 28-yard pass completion from Nowotny to Parsley.
SWU responded with its second best drive of the night, going from its own 35-yard line to Adrian's 11 on 11 plays. Pelzel and Tyler Obermoller (15 carries for 51 yards) shared the carries and combined for 39 of those yards, with each busting off a double-digit yard gain to highlight the series.
Pelzel had a 10-yard dash, and Obermoller gained 12 yards on a dive, as both rushes helped the Wildcats move the chains on third-down situations.
However, the Dragons kept the Wildcats from scoring when Justin Weidert picked off a pass in the end zone on fourth-and-nine from the 11.
"We moved the ball well on a couple of drives, but Adrian was pretty tough tonight," SWU co-head coach Jason Fisher said. "Their rushing attack kind of wore us down, but we kept playing hard."
Adrian chewed more than six minutes off the clock and took a five-score lead on the following possession, as Brake gained 34 yards on a fake punt, and Aggen scored on a 3-yard touchdown run with eight minutes left in the fourth quarter. Tyler Hornstein kicked the extra point this time, giving Adrian a 42-7 bulge.
SWU then drove to the Dragons' 26-yard line, as Ben Scheevel (three carries for 21 yards; 5-for-21 passing for 38 yards) completed a five-yard pass to Kirk McBreen before firing a 25-yard aerial down the right sideline to Obermoller.
But Adrian's Tyler Sieve intercepted a pass on the next play to end the threat.
The Dragons were then forced to punt for the first time on their seventh and final possession of the game.
Scheevel completed a pass to Luke Henkels on the game's final series and later ran for 12 yards up the right sideline as time expired.
Brake led Adrian's tackle charts with eight stops, while Bullerman, Tanner Loosbrock and Steve Loosbrock each had seven tackles.
SWU 0 7 0 0 -- 7
Adrian 14 14 7 7 -- 42