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Wolverines pound Patriots 34-0 to take Section 3 9-man football crown

Mountain Lake Area's Abraham Stoesz (12) slips the grip of Hills-Beaver Creek's Chase Bosch (8) on a quarterback keeper in playoff action Thursday night at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall. (Tim Middagh / The Globe)1 / 4
Mountain Lake Area's Drake Harder (80) drags a string of Patriots tacklers as he drives for more yardage before eventually being stopped by Garrett Raymon (61), Tyson Bork (21) and Troy Knobloch (55). (Tim Middagh / The Globe)2 / 4
The Wolverines' Mace Herrig carries the ball Thursday evening against the Patriots. (Tim Middagh / The Globe)3 / 4
The Mountain Lake Area Wolverines celebrate their win over the Hills-Beaver Creek Patriots. (Tim Middagh / The Globe)4 / 4

MARSHALL   When asked if the feeling of qualifying for state gets old, Abraham Stoesz just shook his head.

“No,” he said. “Never.”

Stoesz and the Mountain Lake Area Wolverines lived up to their No. 1 seed in the Section 3 9-man final with a 34-0 victory over second-seeded Hills-Beaver Creek Thursday.

“We knew they were a good team the first time we played them and nothing changed,” H-BC head coach Rex Metzger said. “They are solid across the board. I have a pretty good feeling they are going to make a pretty good run.”

The Wolverines (10-0) qualify for state for the second year in a row. Last year, MLA lost 8-6 in the state quarterfinals. This year, it will face the Section 4 winner at 7 p.m. on Friday at Buffalo High School.

“It’s pretty amazing,” MLA sophomore Mace Herrig said. “We’ve been there last year. I think we have a better chance this year.”

From the beginning, the Wolverines were determined to make their mark. After a big kickoff return to start the game, MLA marched down the field and capped a 45-yard drive with an 11-yard touchdown pass from Stoesz to Ethan Nickel.

“Usually our kickoff return is pretty good,” Stoesz said. “We don’t do too many of them because we don’t give up too many touchdowns. But when we do, it’s pretty good.”

After forcing a H-BC punt on the next possession, MLA had the ball at the Patriots’ 46. Again, the Wolverines went down the field as a four-yard run by Herrig gave MLA a 14-0 lead.

That’s where the score would stay at halftime despite an eight-minute drive from the Wolverines that saw them covert a 3rd-and-22 and pick up a key fourth down. The Patriots were able to move the ball right before half, but came up empty before the break.

“We didn’t capitalize when we needed to,” Metzger said. “At halftime, it was a game. We just couldn’t come out in the second half and get anything rolling right away. Give them credit, they are a good team.”

The MLA defense forced a turnover out of halftime, and Herrig scored his second touchdown of the game as the Wolverines started to pull away.

H-BC’s next possession ended in a punt and Herrig scored for the third time on the ensuing drive as MLA led 28-0.

“Jax (Wysong) and Gavin (Wysong) are pretty good and we tried to keep them down. We knew if we stopped the run, we’d win the game,” Stoesz said. “We have some big boys up front, and we have some D ends that are slippery and they come off the ball and make good plays.”

Drake Harder scored a fourth-quarter touchdown for the Wolverines, who were able to run out the time before accepting the section championship trophy at midfield.

“It feels good going back again. Hopefully we can get farther this year,” Stoesz said. “It felt great. You feel it all throughout your body.”

The Patriots finish 9-2, with both losses coming at the hands of the Wolverines.

“We’re young, we started five sophomores tonight, four on each side,” Metzger said. “We’re young and we have some young bodies in there, but our guys grew throughout the season and they have nothing to be ashamed of.”

Hills-Beaver Creek 0 0 0 0 -- 0Mountain Lake Area 14 0 14 6 -- 34