PREP FOOTBALL: Raiders beat Chargers in thrillerWESTBROOK — Taking their second lead of the game with three minutes and eight seconds remaining in the fourth quarter and then getting a pair of defensive stops in the closing moments Tuesday night, the fifth-seeded Fulda Raiders claimed a thrilling 20-16 victory over the fourth-seeded Westbrook-Walnut Grove Chargers in the opening round of the Section 3 9-man high school football playoffs.
By: Lucas Knutson, Worthington Daily Globe
WESTBROOK — Taking their second lead of the game with three minutes and eight seconds remaining in the fourth quarter and then getting a pair of defensive stops in the closing moments Tuesday night, the fifth-seeded Fulda Raiders claimed a thrilling 20-16 victory over the fourth-seeded Westbrook-Walnut Grove Chargers in the opening round of the Section 3 9-man high school football playoffs.
Fulda improves to 3-6 overall and advances to take on top-seeded Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley (8-0) on the road Saturday at 3 p.m. Tuesday’s win was the third straight opening-round tournament win for Fulda over W-WG, as the Raiders defeated the Chargers in both 2011 (28-12) and 2010 (35-14) — each time in Fulda in the four-five matchup, as well.
W-WG, which earned a 48-16 win over Fulda back on Sept. 7 of this season, ends the year with a record of 4-5.
“This has turned into a nice rivalry game the last couple of years,” Fulda co-head coach Michael Pagel said. “W-WG is a solid ballclub and really took it to us earlier this year, but what a great effort that our kids gave here tonight. We’re very happy with this win, as our seniors really came through and led us all night long.”
Fulda’s Zach Holt (10 carries for 40 yards, four receptions for 85 yards) scored the go-ahead touchdown at the 3:08 mark of the fourth quarter, giving the Raiders a 20-16 lead after they had trailed 16-8 within the first minute of the final period.
Todd Peterson, who was 15-of-27 passing for 192 yards, fired a touchdown pass to John Getting (five catches for 58 yards) on Fulda’s previous possession — pulling the Raiders to within 16-14 at the 9:34 mark.
Fulda’s defense, which did surrender a 13-play, 63-yard drive that was capped by a touchdown plunge from W-WG’s Dana Madson (27 carries for 115 yards, two touchdowns) with 11:14 to go in the fourth quarter, came up with a total of three stops the rest of the way — including one as time expired with the Chargers threatening for a potential game-winning score.
“We ran out of time and came up just short, but we had plenty of opportunities prior to that,” summed up W-WG co-head coach Leo Theisen. “We didn’t make enough plays defensively when we had the lead, and a lot of the credit has to go to Fulda. They converted on some big fourth-down plays and did a little bit more than we did to earn the win.”
Both teams score in the second quarter, knotted up 8-8 at halftime
Neither team scored in the first quarter, but Fulda seemed to have the upper hand in terms of field position. The Raiders’ Matthew Thier blocked a W-WG punt on the game’s second series, giving Fulda the ball at the Chargers’ 20-yard line with 5:55 on the clock.
Fulda couldn’t capitalize on that opportunity, but the Raiders’ defense stayed steady and didn’t allow W-WG to get anything going either. Trevor Ruesch picked off a pass right in front of the Raiders’ sideline on the final play of the initial period, returning the ball 31 yards to give Fulda a first-and-goal at the Chargers’ nine-yard line.
After a quarterback sack by W-WG’s Shane Buchman and an offsides penalty to begin the second quarter, Holt made a great diving catch — on an out route along the left sideline — to reel in an eight-yard touchdown pass from Peterson to get Fulda on the board.
Peterson then rolled to his right and rifled a pass to Getting for the two-point conversion, lifting the Raiders to an 8-0 lead with 11:01 to play.
“Todd had a good game and made some great reads,” Pagel said. “Our offensive line gave him some time to make the throws, and we came down with some big catches later in the game, as well.”
W-WG later answered with a 12-play, 54-yard scoring drive to get in the end zone right before halftime. The Chargers, who rushed the ball a total of 49 times for 203 yards, wore out the left side of the field with multiple power sweeps by both Madson and Andrew Merrick (17 carries for 92 yards) throughout the game — including several times on that touchdown march.
John Elzenga (10-for-21 passing, 119 yards) also completed a 14-yard pass to Levi Bunting (six receptions for 80 yards) to help sustain that possession, which was capped by a four-yard touchdown plunge by Madson — who made it 8-8 with 56 seconds left by adding the two-point conversion, as well.
Fulda threatened to score in the last minute, as Peterson hooked up with Getting (27 yards), Holt (19 yards) and Mason Trejo (12 holds) to move the Raiders all the way down to the Chargers’ nine-yard line with 20 seconds left. But an interception by W-WG’s Tristan Joel at the five-yard line put the brakes on that drive and sent the game to halftime at 8-8.
Raiders rally for win in fourth quarter
W-WG started the second half with the ball and marched down the field behind the alternating runs by Madson and Merrick — mostly to the left side on toss plays. A 13-yard dash by Madson was followed by a nine-yard burst from Merrick, while Elzenga found Buchman (four catches for 40 yards) with a 12-yard completion to spark the Chargers.
Trejo, though, intercepted a pass to stop the drive at the Raiders’ 21-yard line. But Fulda was unable to take advantage and punted from midfield.
W-WG took over at its own 37-yard line and assembled a scoring drive to take a 16-8 cushion early in the fourth quarter. Buchman had key receptions covering 12 and 14 yards, while Madson (11 yards) and Merrick (14 yards) continued to run the ball hard for the Chargers with surges to the left side.
Madson crossed the goal line on a one-yard touchdown blast at the 11:14 mark, and Elzenga hit Bunting with a pass in the end zone for the two-point conversion to put W-WG up by eight.
“We were able to grind out some yards on the ground and also completed some nice passes,” Theisen said. “We felt pretty good leading 16-8 at that point, but Fulda came right back and scored on us.”
The Raiders launched an impressive aerial attack, as Peterson connected with Getting (13 yards) and Trejo (15 yards) before later finding Holt wide open over the middle for a huge 30-yard gain on fourth-and-14.
That gave Fulda a first-and-goal, and on the next play, Peterson tossed a 10-yard touchdown strike to Getting. Joel picked off a pass on the two-point attempt, but the Raiders were within two (16-14) with 9:34 remaining.
Fulda then got a stop and put together a four-minute scoring drive (7:15 to 3:08) to regain the lead. The Raiders were aided by a pair of Chargers’ penalties, but advanced 70 yards on 11 plays — mixing in some key runs this time.
Holt (nine yards) and Ruesch (11 yards) both had positive pickups on the ground, while Holt also reeled in a big 17-yard pass from Peterson on a fourth-and-eight play.
Holt capped the series with an eight-yard touchdown run to the right — diving to reach the front pylon to put Fulda up 20-16. The Chargers stuffed a run on the two-point try, keeping it a four-point margin with 3:08 showing.
Holt came up big again on W-WG’s ensuing possession, recording a quarterback sack on fourth-and-two to give the ball back to Fulda.
The Chargers then used all of their timeouts and got the ball one last time at their own 31-yard line with 1:10 left. W-WG converted on a fourth-and-11 play when Elzenga found Bunting for 19 yards on a screen to the right to prolong the game with 14 seconds remaining.
Bunting then came down with a big 37-yard reception down the left sideline, and W-WG spiked the ball at Fulda’s 14-yard line with just four seconds showing.
But the next pass was broken up by the Raiders and fell incomplete as time ran out, setting off a celebration for Fulda.
Fulda 0 8 0 12 — 20
W-WG 0 8 0 8 — 16