PREP FOOTBALL: Cyclones score late to defeat DragonsMARSHALL — Displaying a strong rushing attack, St. Clair scored on its first offensive series of the game and — after being stymied by Adrian’s defense for most the contest — crossed the goal line again with just 1 minute, 4 seconds left. It was enough for the Cyclones to defeat the Dragons 15-12 in the Section 3A football championship Friday at Mattke Field on the campus of Southwest Minnesota State University.
By: Les Knutson, Worthington Daily Globe
MARSHALL — Displaying a strong rushing attack, St. Clair scored on its first offensive series of the game and — after being stymied by Adrian’s defense for most the contest — crossed the goal line again with just 1 minute, 4 seconds left.
It was enough for the Cyclones to defeat the Dragons 15-12 in the Section 3A football championship Friday at Mattke Field on the campus of Southwest Minnesota State University.
That final, six-play, 60-yard drive by the second-seeded Cyclones was capped by a 19-yard touchdown sprint by senior running back Miklo Miller, who carried the ball on a sweep to the left and was able to outrace Adrian’s defenders to the left corner of the end zone, giving St. Clair a 13-12 lead.
John Goebel, a hard-running junior back, bulled behind a strong offensive line surge to the left of center for the 2-point conversion.
After an exchange of fumbles, a 17-yard Adrian pass completion, a pair of long pass incompletions and a game-clinching interception by St. Clair sophomore Austin Nagel, the Cyclones — who did not play a varsity schedule last year — advanced to the Class A state high school football tournament.
Adrian, which was playing in its sixth consecutive section championship game, finished a stellar season at 8-3 overall, including a three-way tie (with perennial northern powers Dawson-Boyd and Minneota) for the Little Sioux Conference championship, each with identical 6-1 league records.
“We had a great season, better than we really expected,” praised Adrian head coach Randy Strand after the Dragons accepted the section runner-up trophy. “We had a lot of kids step up all year long and play some good, solid football for us.”
The Dragons, who earned the top seed for this year’s eight-team tournament, were the three-time defending Section 3A champions. But graduation took a heavy toll on the program and, for Adrian to get back to another title game, it was an accomplishment for the program and this year’s players.
With only five seniors — Nate Loosbrock, Jake Tiede, Jordan Preuss, Jake Diekmann and Adam Garms -— on the squad, the success of the Dragons was a tribute to the tradition of Adrian football
“These seniors were tremendous leaders and had a lot of good times playing football for Adrian High School,” Strand said. “We will definitely miss their contributions.”
After spotting the Cyclones an early 7-0 lead just 4 minutes, 15 seconds into the game, the Dragons appeared to be taking control and it was looking like a seventh state-tournament trip was looming for Adrian.
Sparked by long runs from scrimmage by junior running back Jordan Dingmann (42 yards off a fake punt play in the second quarter) and freshman quarterback Logan Rogers (off a fake handoff and QB sweep to the right in the third quarter), the Dragons scored touchdowns in each of the middle quarters and owned a 12-7 lead until St. Clair’s last drive completed the scoring and ended Adrian’s season.
“We needed to get more done,” Strand said. “We needed to score another touchdown in the third quarter. We needed to make our extra points. We needed to get a first down when we were driving the ball in the fourth quarter and we needed to come with one more defensive stop. But, that’s football and the other team is trying to do those things, too.”
St. Clair scores first, Adrian rallies with two touchdown drives
Tiede, who finished the day with a team-high 17 tackles, opened the game with an exciting 55-yard kick return, putting the ball at St. Clair’s 45-yard stripe.
The Cyclones, who forced a three-and-out and returned Tiede’s punt to their own 25, showed how they have won nine games this year as they unleashed an impressive ground game, quickly moving the chains for a pair of first downs.
Then, Goebel (27 carries, 136 yards) broke free for a 40-yard touchdown run, which capped a six-play, 75-yard drive. Nico Groenewold was perfect with the PAT kick and with 7:45 on the first-quarter clock, St. Clair owned a 7-0 lead.
“St. Clair has some good-sized linemen and they really took it at us on that first series,” Strand said. “We didn’t seem to ready for that, but we did adjust better and held them pretty well until that final drive.”
The two similiar squads exchange punts over the next two possessions, with Adrian’s defensive — led by Tiede, Diekmann (15 tackles, including three for loss), sophomore Jesse Slater (12 tackles, two fumble recoveries) and freshman Matt Slater (10 tackles) — began to assert itself.
Slater’s fumble recovery at the 7:42 mark of the second quarter helped turn the tide in Adrian’s favor.
The Dragons picked up a first down on a seven-yard pass from Rogers to Garms and Dingmann (13 carries for 75 yards), who was effective on several runs.
However, the drive appeared to be stalled at midfield and Tiede was ready to punt for a fourth time.
On a fourth-and-1 from their own 49, the Dragons snapped the ball to Dingmann, who electrified the Adrian fans with a tackle-breaking 42-yard romp to the Cyclones’ nine-yard line.
Three plays later, Dingmann carried the ball across the goal line (behind the lead block of Tiede) for a three-yard TD out of Adrian’s Power I formation.
Goebel broke up Adrian’s 2-point pass attempt by Loosbrock, the holder on the Dragons’ kicking attempts. But with 3:43 remaining in the first half, it was 7-6 lead for Adrian.
The Dragons’ drive lasted 3:59 and chewed up 72 yards on nine plays.
Adrian’s defense came up big again in the closing minutes of the second quarter and just a single point separated the teams at intermission.
The Cyclones had rushed for 134 yards on 26 carries in the first half, but 103 of them came in the first quarter.
“We played better defense in the second quarter than we did in the first,” Strand said. “It seemed like things were starting to go our way, but we needed to score a couple of times in the third quarter.”
The Dragons was able to score in the third period, starting with a punt return to their own 29-yard line by Dingmann. A great catch by Dingmann along the left sideline for a first down on a third-and-4 was a key play early in the drive and a breakaway run by Rogers (14 rushes for 77 yards) was the catalyst.
The burst by Rogers gave Adrian a first-and-10 at the Cyclones’ 18-yard stripe before a nine-yard surge by Tiede (10 carries for 37 yards) made it second-and-1 at the nine.
Rogers picked up a first down with a three-yard gain and, after a loss of one, Dingmann scored his second touchdown of the game with a great effort around the left edge — diving into the end zone just in front of the pylon, completing a seven-yard TD with 6:25 left in the quarter.
But, once again the Dragons’ 2-point conversion attempt was stopped by St. Clair’s defense and Adrian’s lead was 12-7.
After long drives are exchanged, St. Clair scores go-ahead TD
Later in the quarter, Adrian assembled a 10-play drive — highlighted by an eight-yard burst by Tiede and a tough, tackle-breaking nine-yard gain by Rogers — which covered 45 yards, but stalled at the Cyclones’ nine.
St. Clair (278 yards of total offense, 13 first downs) responded with its longest march of the game, driving nearly the length of the field (88 yards) in 18 plays, aided by two Adrian penalties.
But the Dragons’ defense came up huge, stopping the Cyclones at the Adrian 3-yard line and getting the ball back with 5:10 to play in the game.
A little more than 2 minutes later, however, Adrian (210 total yards, eight first downs) was unable to get a needed first down and punted to the Cyclones, who behind the running of Goebel, Miller (49 yards) and senior running back Michael Nett (65 yards), moved the ball toward Adrian’s goal line.
Facing a third-and-4 from the Dragons’ 19, Miller took the handoff and streaked untouched for the game-deciding TD, just eluding a pair of Adrian tackling attempts.
After Goebel’s blast for the extra two points, the Dragons still had 64 seconds to mount a miraculous comeback.
But a lost fumble on the ensuing fake lateral kick return looked like it was the final doom for the Dragons.
Seven seconds later, Slater recovered his second fumble of the game and with 57 seconds left and Adrian had one more chance.
A 17-yard pass completion from Rogers (three completions for 28 yards) to Preuss was a big play for the Dragons, but a great effort by Garms fell incomplete and, after Nagel returned his interception 35 yards to Adrian’s 20-yard line, the verdict was decided.
St. Clair (9-2), which represents the Gopher Valley Conference, will tangle with the Secion 4A champion at Mattke Field at 7 p.m. Friday in the state tournament quarterfinals, with the winner of that game heading to the Metrodome for the semifinals the following week.
St. Clair 7 0 0 8 — 15
Adrian 0 6 6 0 — 12