Section 3AA football: JCC routs Martin County West; Luverne falls
JACKSON —- Capitalizing on superior field position achieved by a punishing rushing attack from its polished wishbone offense, the top-seeded Jackson County Central Huskies earned another trip to the Section 3AA championship game with an impressive 51-12 semifinal victory over neighboring Martin County West Saturday afternoon at Swearingen Field.
With the win, JCC improves to 9-1 for the season and will play second-seeded Maple River, also 9-1, for the section title and a state-tournament berth Friday at Mattke Field on the campus of Southwest Minnesota State University (SMSU) in Marshall. Game time is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Maple River —- which represents the communities of Mapleton, Amboy, Good Thunder and Minnesota Lake —- has advanced with a pair of shutouts over Southwest Conference squads from Windom (49-0 in the quarterfinals) and Luverne (21-0 in Saturday’s semifinals).
The Eagles were undefeated (5-0) in the Gopher Valley Conference, Class AA. Maple River’s only loss was to Blooming Prairie (36-28) in Game 7. The Eagles defeated Medford in Game 8 before their two impressive playoff wins.
After grinding out a 96-yard drive —- going into a strong west wind —- which chewed up most of the first quarter, JCC scored 24 points with the wind at their backs in the second quarter Saturday.
“When the wind is a factor, field position is more important than ever,” stressed JCC head coach Tom Schuller. “We needed to make Martin County West play on a long field as much as possible and —- helped by two pass interceptions —- we were able to play on a short field a couple of times in that second quarter when we took the lead.”
for seven touchdowns,
Behind a strong and experienced offensive line, the Huskies kept the ball on the ground, going into the wind, in the first quarter and maintained possession with two time-consuming drives, covering 34 and 96 yards, respectively.
“We wanted to weather that first quarter and keep them (the Mavericks) out of the end zone,” exclaimed Schuller. “The best way to do that was to control the football ourselves.”
The Huskies, who three times converted on fourth down during the quarter, marched 34 yards on their first drive —- before losing the ball on a fumble.
JCC’s defense, however, stopped the Mavericks and forced a punt.
Starting on their own four-yard line, the Huskies moved downfield behind the blocking of senior center Chris Baker (6-0, 210), senior guards Nolan Hohenstein (6-4, 275) and Zach Paulson (5-11, 220), senior tackle Matt Schmit (6-5, 235), sophomore tackle Michael Miller (6-2, 240), senior tight end Ryan Brighton (5-9, 190) and junior tight end Freeman Scott (6-1, 235).
Senior quarterback Shadrach Wacker (5-11, 160) directed JCC’s vaunted wishbone attack, running the option with junior fullback Paden Moore (5-9, 173) as the first choice or dual tailbacks Keegan Moore, a 5-10 195-pound sophomore, and junior Luke Norland (5-10, 185) carrying the ball often.
“We have a big line which has played a lot of football together,” summed up Schuller about JCC’s front seven. “Those guys do a great job of controlling the line of scrimmage and giving our backs —- who have tremendous balance —- a chance to get yards on the ground.”
The Moore brothers and Norland are all wrestlers and each is hard to knock down.
It was Norland, who capped JCC’s nearly eight-minute, 96-yard drive with a five-yard touchdown burst —- untouched —- to the left corner of the end zone on the first play of the second quarter.
Foreign-exchange student Marek Bingel was perfect on the extra-point kick and the Huskies were on the board with a 7-0 lead.
Interceptions and returns
by Wacker and Macek
lead to two JCC TD’s
Playing as an extra defensive back against MCW’s effective passing attack, Wacker intercepted a Jake Faber pass and returned the ball 34 yards to the Mavericks’ 23.
It took JCC just four plays to increase its lead to 14-0 as Paden Moore bulled three yards for the six-pointer and Bingel, who was six-of-seven on PAT’s, was good again.
The same scenario repeated on the next series as JCC senior safety Mitchell Macek (5-8, 170), who also is the Huskies’ long snapper, intercepted a pass by Faber and returned the football 19 yards.
That play by Macek set JCC up at MCW’s 14-yard line.
Wacker capped a quick, three-play drive with an eight-yard TD scamper on a run to the left after faking to Keegan Moore going right.
Bingel’s kick gave JCC a 21-0 lead with 6:46 to play in the first half.
The Mavericks countered with a nice drive of their own, covering 80 yards, as Faber (12-of-24 passing for 179 yards) completed several passes —- including a 30-yard touchdown strike to Sam Baker on a slant pattern.
Paden Moore blocked MCW’s extra-point kick attempt and with 3:17 to play in the second quarter, JCC’s lead was sliced to 21-6.
The Huskies responded with another ground-oriented drive, including a nice 14-yard gain by sophomore Ryan Salzwedel.
Bingel’s 29-yard field goal capped the drive with 40 seconds left in the half.
Huskies score on
first two drives of
Holding a 24-6 lead, the Huskies opened the spread by scoring on their first two drives of the third quarter.
Salzwedel broke loose on a reverse for a 30-yard touchdown —- aided by a key downfield block from junior wide receiver Scott Christopher —- to increase JCC’s lead to 31-6 at the 8:23 mark.
Following a short punt by the Mavericks, Keegan Moore —- who carried the ball 21 times for 150 yards —- capped JCC’s next touchdown march with a four-yard run.
Trailing 38-6, the fourth-seeded Mavericks, who entered the game with a sparkling 8-1 record, put together a fine drive which put the ball in the end zone.
Tanner Lange’s tackle-breaking four-yard bust completed the drive with 1:54 to play in the quarter.
The Huskies, however, were able to sustain two more scoring drives early in the fourth quarter to put the game away.
Keegan Moore scored from 11 yards out on the first play of the period and Paden Moore (15 carries, 75 yards) added a two-yard touchdown plunge 83 seconds later, as the scoring was complete with 10:27 remaining.
The Huskies finished with 330 yards rushing on 54 carries, which generated 13 of their 15 first downs and resulted in all seven touchdowns.
Wacker completed three passes (on just four throws), all to senior Darnell Taylor-Breck for 40 yards.
While the Mavericks were able to gain 179 yards through the air, JCC’s staunch defense against the run, limited them to a mere 39 yards on the ground on 25 rushes.
“I’m just so proud of the guys,” summed up Schuller. “This was a good team that we beat and we did it by playing solid, physical football for all four quarters.”
MCW 0 6 6 0 —- 12
JCC 0 24 14 13 —- 51
Maple River 21, Luverne 0
MAPLETON —Maple River earned a shutout to advance in the postseason by downing Luverne 21-0.
The Eagles scored twice in a three-minute span in the first frame, with runs of four yards and 34 yards to pay dirt by senior Casey Decker, earning a 14-0 advantage by the halftime intermission.
Luverne struggled to find anything for an answer and put together just 98 yards of offense on the day. The Cards rushed for 76 and passed for 22. Maple River senior Aaron Trio scored from two yards out on a rush with 4:03 to go in the ballgame to cap the win for his team.
The Cards end their season at 6-4.
“This was obviously a disappointing way for us to end our season, but give Maple River credit,” Luverne coach Todd Oye said. “We were just not able to get anything going on offense and it was kind of a flat game for us.”
Luverne 0 0 0 0 — 0
MRiver 14 0 0 7 — 21