PREP FOOTBALL: Fulda scores early and late to defeat W-WG in 9-man openerFULDA — Scoring two touchdowns in the game’s first eight minutes, intercepting three passes in the second half and marching 80 yards on 12 plays with a time-consuming fourth quarter touchdown drive Tuesday night, Fulda earned a 28-12 victory over Westbrook-Walnut Grove in the opening round of the Section 3 9-man playoffs.
By: Les Knutson, Worthington Daily Globe
FULDA — Scoring two touchdowns in the game’s first eight minutes, intercepting three passes in the second half and marching 80 yards on 12 plays with a time-consuming fourth quarter touchdown drive Tuesday night, Fulda earned a 28-12 victory over Westbrook-Walnut Grove in the opening round of the Section 3 9-man playoffs.
The victory advances the Raiders (3-6) to Saturday’s semifinals as Fulda travels north to Graceville to tangle with top-seeded and undefeated Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley in a 3 p.m. game.
The Wolverines (8-0) received a first-round bye and their coaches were in Fulda Tuesday, scouting the Raiders — who were playing their first 9-man game of the season.
W-WG, which scored a pair of touchdowns on long pass plays from Jacob Comnick to Dana Madson, finishes its season with a 3-6 record.
Comnick, a tremendously versatile all-around football player, utilized a well-executed pump fake to find Madson for a 69-yard scoring strike early in the second quarter.
Then, midway through the third quarter the same pair hooked up on a 79-touchdown pass, which trimmed Fulda’s lead to 22-12 with 6:17 to play in the period.
But, other than those two long pass connections, the Chargers were held in check by a swarming Fulda defense which put good pressure on W-WG’s passing attack and came up with five turnovers in the contest.
On top of that, Fulda limited the Chargers to just 90 yards of net rushing on 30 attempts.
“I was happy with how our defense played,” summed up FHS co-head coach Greg Erdmann. “We were aggressive and attacking. Other than the two long touchdown plays, our pass coverage was good and we did a nice job against W-WG’s running game.”
Comnick, who had an amazing total of 19 tackles, two sacks and a pass interception to spearhead W-WG’s defense, racked up 309 yards of total offense.
The 6-1, 205-pound senior, who plays running back, quarterback, defensive end and linebacker, rushed for 75 yards on 23 carries, passed for 222 yards (completing 12 of 22 passes) and caught three passes for 12 yards.
“He’s the real deal,” praised W-WG co-head coach Leo Theisen about the Chargers’ best player. “He’s quite the athlete and an exceptional all-around football player. Jake made all kinds of plays for us tonight, especially on the defensive side.”
Mic Holinka sparks Fulda’s opening TD drive
After an opening 28-yard kick return by Keith Gehl — who had a stellar night on defense all game long for the Raiders — Fulda marched 44 yards on six plays on a scoring drive which spanned just two minutes and 34 seconds.
Senior Mic Holinka, who was playing just his third game as Fulda’s starting quarterback, engineered the series with both his arm and his legs.
After two short running plays, Holinka connected with a Gehl on a key third-down pass completion, which netted 17 yards and gave the Raiders a first-and-10 at the W-WG 21-yard line.
A four-yard pass play to Aaron Tiesler was next, before Max Dibble (31 carries, 206 yards rushing) picked up another Raider first down with a seven-yard burst on the ground.
On the next play, Holinka faked the ball to Dibble and scooted around right end, breaking a tackle and avoiding another with a nifty move as he crossed the goal line with a 10-yard touchdown run.
With Adams Jans snapping and Todd Peterson holding, Fulda’s Clarke Hein split the uprights on the extra-point kick and with 9:26 showing on the first-quarter clock, the Raiders had a quick 7-0 lead.
“That was an impressive opening drive by Fulda,” said Theisen. “We were keyed on stopping Dibble and those two pass completions and the touchdown run by Holinka were big plays for them. No question about it, their quarterback did a nice job on that first series.”
Holinka, who finished the night with 74 net yards on 15 carries (12 rushes for 97 yards, less three times sacked for 33 yards) and was six-of-eight passing for 69 yards, was happy with the way things went for Fulda on that first drive.
“Everybody’s watching Max,” explained Holinka about his ability to get to the outside. “With him as our go-to guy, he draws a lot of attention, so if I give him a good fake, I am able to get to the outside sometimes.”
“Mic has quick feet and reads the play well,” praised Erdmann about Holinka’s performance as Fulda’s quarterback. “It helps when teams are keying on Max like that, but Mic did a real good job with his fakes and utilized his quickness to beat them to the corner a couple of times.”
After the Chargers gained a couple of first downs on their first offensive possession, the Raiders’ defense held on a fourth-and-11 from the Fulda 45-yard line as Gehl (13 total tackles — six solos, three assists, two sacks and two tackles for loss) and Jacob Cuperus (four tackles, fumble recovery) both came up with big plays.
Holinka ripped off back-to-back 17 yard gains to the left, as Fulda looked to be on the march again.
But, the Raiders fumbled for the first of three times at the W-WG 20-yard line, as the Chargers Matt Otto scooped up the loose ball and rambled 26 yards, giving his team the ball at the 46.
Then on W-WG’s first play, the Chargers fumbled and gave the ball right back as Cuperus recovered for Fulda.
“That was a big turning point right there,” mentioned Theisen. “We had just come with a big defensive play and had the ball near midfield and then we fumbled on our first play and gave it right back to them.”
It took Fulda just four plays and 1:06 to move 46 yards for another touchdown.
Holinka’s 12-yard pass to Tiesler (three catches, 28 yards) was followed by a pair of strong gains by Dibble (six and 21), giving the Raiders a first-and-goal at the five.
Zach Holt capped the brief drive with a five-yard TD run over right guard with 4:22 to play in the first quarter.
Peterson handled a low snap on the PAT try and scampered to the left for a two-point conversion run, lifting Fulda to a 15-0 edge.
The Chargers responded with an eight-play drive from their own 28 to the Fulda 44-yard line, but on a fourth-and-four, Dibble (three solo tackles, six assists) came up with a key stop for the Raiders.
As the first quarter ended, the Raiders were driving again, aided by an 18-yard pass connection from Holinka to Trevor Ruesch.
But the drive stalled when Derek Ourada intercepted Holinka at the Fulda six-yard line.
The Chargers, however, were unable to get a first down and Ruesch’s 13-yard punt return gave Fulda great field position at the W-WG 28-yard line.
An explosive 15-yard burst by Dibble and a nifty 12-yard touchdown scamper by Holinka highlighted a quick, four-play TD drive for the Raiders, and Hein’s PAT kick gave the home team a 22-0 lead with 8:36 left in the first half.
Comnick to Madson, Charger touchdown
Just 23 seconds later, on W-WG’s second play of the ensuing possession, Comnick delivered a perfect pass to Madson who outran the Raiders’ defense for a 69-yard touchdown.
Madson finished the night with five catches for 160 yards.
W-WG’s two-point conversion play failed, but with 8:13 to play in the second quarter, the Chargers were back in the game.
Fulda answered with a nice drive, highlighted by a pair of strong runs by Dibble and 10-yard completion from Holinka to Gehl.
But the Raiders drive stalled at the Charger 29-yard line with another fumble, which was recovered by W-WG freshman lineman Tony Schoborg.
The Chargers ran off nine plays and were moving the ball well until Cuperus forced a fumble — which was recovered by Matt Thier, giving possession back to Fulda.
With 3:40 left in the half, the Raiders had a chance to go up by three scores.
A pair of nine-yard runs by Dibble and 26 net yards on two rushes by Holinka gave Fulda a first-and-goal at the Chargers’ two-yard stripe.
But after driving inside the one-yard line, Fulda’s 10-play drive was stopped as the first half came to and end.
“We came big by stopping them at the end of the half,” praised Theisen about his team’s goal line stand. “That gave us a real spark going into the intermission break.”
Chargers win third quarter, but Dibble rushes for 65 yards on Fulda’s game-winning drive
With some momentum on their side, the Chargers kept the Raiders out of the end zone the entire third quarter, while scoring themselves on another long TD bomb — this one for 79 yards — from Comnick to Madson.
But once again, the Chargers were unable to convert on their two-point pass try as Cuperus deflected the throw.
With 6:17 to play in the third quarter, the score stood at 22-12 and the momentum seemed to be swinging W-WG’s way.
A 32-yard pass from Comnick to Nick Lehnhoff (seven catches for 70 yards, six-of-12 passing for 28 yards) put the Chargers inside the Fulda 30-yard line as the third quarter ended.
A couple of strong runs by Comnick moved the ball to the 16. But a penalty and three straight incomplete passes left W-WG with a fourth-and-15 at the 21.
Hein (four solo tackles, seven assists) then came up with a key pass interception for the Raiders in the end zone, stopping the Chargers’ drive.
Fulda then clinched the victory with an impressive 12-play, 80-yard drive, which chewed up five minutes and 28 seconds of clock time.
Repeatedly feeding the ball to Dibble — who carried nine times on the drive for 65 yards — the Raiders scored their fourth touchdown of the night with 6:18 to play on a four-yard burst by Dibble.
A 13-yard pass play from Holinka to Tiesler (who had intercepted a Charger pass in the third quarter) was a key play midway through the drive.
Gehl came through with two huge sacks on W-WG’s next series, giving the Raiders the ball back with 4:30 to play at the Charger 39-yard line.
“We moved Keith all over on defense tonight, he played some linebacker, some cornerback and finished up at defensive end,” praised Erdmann. “He really has a sense for where the ball is and is an extremely versatile player for us when the opponent has the ball.”
In the game’ closing minutes, both Comnick and Holinka had pass interceptions, putting the capper on outstanding games for the two talented seniors.
For the Raiders who have 13 seniors on their roster, the home field victory was sweet.
“It really feels good, winning our last game on this field,” summed up Gehl. “This was a lot of fun.”
W-WG 0 6 6 0 — 12
Fulda 15 7 0 6 — 28