Luverne escapes with 22-19 victory over MVL
LUVERNE -- After accounting for two touchdowns and more than half of Luverne's total offense, it's no wonder that Phil Paquette was worn down following Luverne's 22-19 victory over Minnesota Valley Lutheran Saturday.
"I can't even describe it," Paquette said following the game. "I was just beat up, and everyone's beat up. The game just takes it out of you."
Paquette had 125 yards on the ground and touchdown runs of five and seven yards as the Cardinals snuck past MVL in a Section 3AA football playoff game.
Before the game, Paquette had no idea he'd be carrying the load for Luverne (9-1).
"I usually talk about it with the offensive coordinator, and we talk about what we think for the game, and he thought about 20 (carries)," Paquette said. "It's usually about 20 or under, but I've never had more than 20 in a game."
Paquette blew past the goal, as the junior running back had 30 carries, but never had a rush of more than 17 yards.
"There really weren't any big runs, it was just pounding the ball continually," Paquette said. "We kept pushing and kept pounding. They were very good at hitting us at the line, and if you broke that first tackle, you could get a couple more, but it wasn't like we were getting 80-yard runs or anything."
Luverne started with the ball to open the game, but the MVL defense forced a punt as the Chargers (7-3) took over.
With the ball on their own 39, the Chargers marched down the field on the Cardinal defense, capping the drive with a 3-yard touchdown burst from Zach Ring (5 carries, 22 yards). With a successful PAT, MVL held a 7-0 lead.
On the ensuing possession, Luverne moved down the field behind the running of Paquette and a key third down completion from Jeremy Hoff (3-of-13, 40 yards) to Zach Olson (2 receptions, 26 yards).
Paquette finished the drive with a 6-yard scamper, and with a successful PAT from Sebastiao Sousa Soares, the score was knotted at 7-all.
While MVL could not produce any points in its first drive of the second quarter, the Cardinals once again found paydirt.
Luverne marched 59 yards in 14 plays, as Hoff (11 carries, 27 yards) finished the drive with a 1-yard touchdown as the Cardinals pulled ahead by a touchdown.
With neither team able to put points on the board in the remaining five minutes of the half, Luverne went into the locker room with a 14-7 lead.
Receiving the ball to start the second half, MVL's offense went to work.
Behind gains of 14, nine and 12 from Brandon Smith (18 carries, 96 yards), the Chargers traveled into Luverne territory.
Facing a third and 12 from the Luverne 41, Seth Hoscheit (4-of-8, 62 yards) found Galen Holzhueter down the left side. Holzhueter broke a tackle as he was able to find the end zone to pull the Chargers back within a point.
"I can't be disappointed in how the kids played," MVL head coach Jim Buboltz said. "They played with so much heart today against a very talented Luverne team. They came out in the second half and got the lead back and put themselves in a position to win. They did everything that I asked them to do."
For the Luverne defense, the start of the game and the second half proved to be the weakest part of the game.
"Give them a lot of credit for the adjustments they made to start the game and the second half," Luverne head coach Todd Oye said.
With a blocked PAT, the Cardinals still held a slim 14-13 advantage.
MVL's defense provided the next big play in the game. With Luverne's offense stalling on its next drive, the Cardinals' punt attempt was blocked, giving the Chargers the ball on the Luverne 35.
From there, the Chargers needed only five plays for Micah Dose (39 yards on 9 carries) to find paydirt from 20 yards out as MVL took a 19-14 lead with two minutes remaining in the third quarter.
"(We made) some adjustments at half to try to find Kyle Heronimus," Buboltz said. "He's so tough in the middle that we had to get a body on him, and when we did, we were able to pick up some yards. Our line did a much better job on him alone. They have a good team, and yet, we were able to find some holes in the second half."
As both teams traded interceptions -- by MVL's Holzhueter and Luverne's Zack Clark -- the third quarter ended with Luverne trailing.
After the Cardinal defense forced MVL to punt, Luverne took over on the Charger 33.
Paquette carried five times in the eight-play possession, including an eight-yard rumble for the touchdown as Luverne took a 20-19 lead.
Paquette also ran in the 2-point conversion -- making the lead 22-19.
"It was back and forth," Oye said of the game. "Any team could have won it. When we scored that last touchdown with four or five minutes to go, that put it back on our defense, and that was big."
On the ensuing possession, Hoff intercepted a Charger pass, as Luverne ran out the clock on the game and the MVL season.
"It's almost exactly how I thought it would go," Oye said at the conclusion of the game. "They are an excellent defensive team. Their starting defense had only given up one defensive touchdown the last three weeks. They play with a lot of speed and aggressiveness, and they gave us trouble."
For Buboltz, it was the defense that kept the Chargers in the contest.
"Defensively, they really bent today. They didn't break too many times, but we bent pretty good," Buboltz said. "That's a pretty big offensive line and a pretty big power lineup. But against that type of lineup, I'm really proud of them. We used some speed there, and we hit them real hard and kept hitting them. I'm just proud of the kids that they stuck with it for all four quarters."
As the No. 1 seed, Luverne will be able to play its third consecutive playoff game at home. With a 37-29 victory over Tracy-Milroy-Balaton, the Jackson County Central Huskies will travel to Luverne on Friday.
"I know Jackson County Central wants to play us again," Oye said. "We played them the second game of the season. They have some moves that they have made with their personnel, and I know they are excited to play this game."
Luverne defeated JCC, 39-14, at Jackson in Week 2.
"We'll be ready to go, but it'll be a tough test," Paquette said. "We've faced them before, but we had a couple bounces that went our way, and we ended up on top. In the postseason, everything can be a lot closer."
MVL 7 0 12 0 -- 19
Luverne 7 7 0 8 -- 22