PREP FOOTBALL: Dreams coming true for Huskies
CHASKA -- The Jackson County Central Huskies have reached a lifelong dream.
After defeating Mayer Lutheran 51-20 in an MSHSL Class AA Football State Tournament quarterfinal game Friday at Chaska High School, JCC players and fans celebrated their semifinal berth and upcoming trip to The Metrodome in Minneapolis.
"All of us have been in football since third grade," Huskies left guard Nolan Hohenstein said. "It's a great feeling to play in 'The Dome.' It's a dream come true."
At 2 p.m. Thursday, Jackson County Central (10-2) plays undefeated Moose Lake/Willow River (12-0). The Rebels defeated previously unbeaten Hawley (11-1) in a 35-22 quarterfinal decision Friday at St. Cloud State University.
Although it has been 11 years since the Huskies last played in The Metrodome, JCC head coach Tom Schuller has experience guiding teams there.
"I was the head coach in 2001, when we won the state title, and I was the defensive coordinator in 1997 and 1998, when we finished in second place," Schuller said. "But it's been too long."
Schuller said he's going to savor this trip to The Metrodome.
"This time I'm going to look around a little bit more," Schuller said jokingly. "I was cocky enough (back then) to think we would be back there a little sooner than we are."
Schuller believes Jackson County Central's schedule has helped prepare the Huskies.
"We have great team chemistry and we have been able to beat some very good football teams," Schuller said. "We see some very good teams during the year. So, we're not in shock when we come to this level, especially when we're playing a Class AAAA power like Marshall. That gets our team used to seeing some things we always aren't going to see."
Schuller also said the Huskies' games against Luverne (a 28-14 loss Sept. 14 and a 35-28 sectional title win Nov. 2) and West Central South Dakota (a 39-14 win Oct. 5) were pivotal in shaping JCC's chemistry.
"We could conceivably have three loses in the regular season. I think our record is a little bit deceiving," Schuller said.
What hasn't been deceiving have been the holes Hohenstein and the rest of the Huskies' offensive line have been opening. Running back Darrick Vancura, who has run for 542 yards and six touchdowns in his last two playoff games, picked up 279 yards and three touchdowns Friday against Mayer Lutheran.
"When we were watching film (last week), we noticed (Mayer Lutheran) was bringing nine players every time," Vancura said. "If they we're going to bring nine, I knew that if I could get through that first line of defense, I knew I could take it to the house."
JCC outgained Mayer Lutheran 353-153 in rushing yards and 466-386 in total yards.
Quarterback Tanner Menke also had a hand in the fun. He ran for two touchdowns, threw for another and ran back one for four scores in the game.
Menke only completed 3 of 13 passes, but threw for 113 yards. His 41-yard second-quarter strike to Darnell Taylor-Breck went for a touchdown before Menke completed a 54-yard third-quarter bomb to Kyle Luhmann was spotted at the Crusaders 1. The other completion was a 19-yard pass to Shadrach Wacker.
Quarterback Jeremiah Grimsley accounted for most of Mayer Lutheran's offense. He finished 11 of 25 for 233 yards and two touchdowns. He connected with Tanner Luebke on a 76-yard second-quarter TD strike and hit Anthony Gruenhagen during a 39-yard third-quarter touchdown pass.
Joel Burfiend, who was the Crusaders' leading rusher, ran nine times for 56 yards, including a 31-yard touchdown. He left the game with a first-half injury and did not return.
DG Sports Editor Jeff Arenz
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