CLASS A SEMIFINALS: Adrian advances to state finals

MINNEAPOLIS -- It wasn't until the final minute against Fosston that Adrian's sack leader, Andrew Lonneman, could finally pin his ears back. He made the most of his opportunity. The Dragons' defensive end got to the quarterback twice in the final...

Adrian's Kilgore
Michael Brauer/Daily Globe Adrian's Kyle Kilgore catches an 18-yard touchdown reception at the end of the second quarter of Friday's Class A state football game against Fosston in Minneapolis. Kilgore's score gave the Dragons a 14-7 lead at halftime.

MINNEAPOLIS -- It wasn't until the final minute against Fosston that Adrian's sack leader, Andrew Lonneman, could finally pin his ears back.

He made the most of his opportunity.

The Dragons' defensive end got to the quarterback twice in the final 41 seconds on Friday, helping to wind the clock down on Fosston and advance Adrian to the Class A state football championship with a 14-7 victory.

Adrian will play Friday at the Metrodome, facing either Blooming Prairie (11-1) or Minneota (12-0), who play today in the other semifinal.

Lonneman's sack total this season now stands at 15, though none has been more important than his most recent takedown.


"That was the biggest sack of the year, by far," Lonneman said of his 15th. "To play for a state championship, it's just awesome."

With time running out, it looked as though a pass play was inevitable. So Dragons' head coach Randy Strand gave Lonneman the green light.

"They were running short on clock and with no timeouts, you pin your ears back," Strand said. "That's what Andrew likes to do. He likes to sack quarterbacks."

He didn't get many chances on Friday. Most of the contest was played between the hash marks, with the two teams choosing to stick with their running game.

It worked early on, and both scored on their opening drives.

Quarterback Brett Nowotny put Adrian on the board first when he bowled into the end zone on a 10-yard touchdown run.

The play capped an 11-play, 65-yard opening march for the Dragons.

Fosston responded with a 13-play, 67-yard drive of its own that ended in a 20-yard scoring burst on a quarterback keeper by Jake Juve.


The Dragons and Greyhounds continued to go punch-for-punch, both forcing turnovers on downs the next two drives.

Many more drives would end the same way in a game that ended up being defined by its fourth downs. Adrian converted three of its seven fourth-down attempts, while Fosston moved the chains on two of its five.

Kicking the ball away wasn't a high priority for either coach. The Dragons had the only punt attempt, and it didn't come until late in the game. Both coaches chose instead to roll the dice.

"We told the kids, 'Let's get it done up front, let's win that battle,'" Strand said of the fourth-down attempts. "If you win enough battles you can win the war, that's what we talk about."

The biggest fourth-down play, though, came with just six seconds remaining in the first half.

On a fourth-and-seven, Nowotny rolled out and fired a pass 18 yards to the end zone. A Fosston defender tipped the ball, but Adrian's Kyle Kilgore adjusted in midair and snagged the touchdown pass.

"He just stuck with that one and he made the catch," Strand said.

Kilgore wasn't even supposed to be the one running the route.


The Dragons' first receiver, Adam Diekmann, left the game in the second quarter after twisting a left ankle that's been aggravating him for the past few weeks.

"Someone in the bottom of the pile had my foot, and it kept on getting twisted more and more as I was falling back," Diekmann said.

Strangely enough, the injury might have actually benefited Adrian on the touchdown play, because of Kilgore's 6-foot 7-inch frame.

"That kid knocked it up just enough for Kyle," Strand said. "Our No. 4 (Diekmann) was hurt, he would have been the guy on the pattern, but as it worked out (Kilgore) was the better guy to have there on that down."

Adrian went into the locker room holding a 14-7 lead, and that's the way it would stay the rest of the way.

The Dragons recovered their second fumble of the game in the fourth quarter when Brendon Kopplow stripped Andrew Juve and Lonneman emerged from the pile with the ball.

Kopplow forced another fumble earlier in the game when he jarred the ball loose from tailback Mark Foss and Nowotny recovered.

But the Dragon defense made its most vital stand in the final minute.


After an Adrian punt, Fosston got one last chance at its own 38-yard line with 41 seconds left on the clock and no timeouts.

The Dragons knew a pass was coming, and Lonneman relished the opportunity to let loose and rush the quarterback.

"I didn't have to worry about stopping the run, I could just go right at the quarterback," Lonneman said.

He forced Jake Juve out of the pocket and chased him down after only a two-yard gain. On the very next play, Lonneman got to Juve again -- this time sacking him for a two-yard loss.

"Andrew's just a 110 percent-type kid," Strand said. "He loves football."

The clock continued to run until the officials called Lonneman for a five-yard face mask on the second play.

But after an incomplete pass, Juve completed a pass to Garrett Carlin, who desperately tossed it to Steven Lyseng, who in turn was forced out of bounds as time expired.

"They were hard-nosed," Strand said of Fosston. "They have excellent running backs and they have a super line up front. We won the slugfest (Friday)."


Adrian finished with 258 total yards to Fosston's 233, although the Greyhounds had more yards rushing, 215-201.

The Dragons (11-2) are now headed back to the state title game for the second time in three years.

In 2007, Goodhue beat them 28-7 in the Class A championship.

Although Adrian's seniors were just sophomores then, several of them played quite a bit on that squad -- including Diekmann, who was able to return to the field in Friday's second half despite his injured ankle.

"When I was a sophomore I thought to myself it would be great to end my senior season with a game that you know it's going to be your last game," he said.

Diekmann will get his chance Friday.

Given a choice, most of the Dragons would rather play Minneota -- a team they know all too well.

The game would present a rematch that would give Adrian shot at redemption, after the Vikings rolled over the Dragons 43-13 in the season opener on Sept. 3.


"It would give us more incentive to play hard," Diekmann said. "They (Minneota) didn't see the team we are right now when they saw us the first time. They were ready for the season, and we weren't right away. I'd like to see them again."

Adrian 7 7 0 0 -- 14

Fosston 7 0 0 0 -- 7

Adrian defense stops Fosston
Michael Brauer/daily Globe Adrian's Brendon Kopplow (73) Andrew Lonneman (21) and Jake Diekmann converge on Fosston running back Mark Goss (27) during Friday's Class A state football semifinal game in Minneapolis.

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