SLAYTON -- Senior receiver Chant Mitchell caught a 9-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Abe Paulzine with 38 seconds to play as Murray County Central rallied past Martin County West 24-18 here Friday night in a clash of unbeaten 11-man football teams.
Murray County Central’s Rebels, ranked first among Minnesota’s Class 1A teams by the Associated Press, trailed 18-8 in the third quarter before dominating the final 12 minutes to claim a dramatic homecoming triumph. The Rebels are 6-0 this season.
Martin County West, ranked eighth in this week’s 1A poll, fell to 5-1.
Paulzine scored on a 7-yard run late in the third quarter as the Rebels rebounded from a 10-point deficit. Christian Tentinger’s second 2-point PAT of the night drew MCC within 18-16.
The Rebels mounted a long drive in the fourth quarter but Paulzine fumbled at the end of a 17-yard run and the Mavericks’ Carver Rohman recovered at the MCW 12-yard line.
The Rebel defense held, and MCC got the ball back at the Maverick 30 with 2:18 to play. The Rebels’ Carter Benda converted a 4th-and-inches call with a 9-yard run, and two plays later Pauzine went up top to hit Mitchell for the game-winning touchdown.
Benda, MCC’s fine junior halfback, rushed for 143 yards and a 44-yard touchdown that came three plays after the Rebels recovered an onside kick on the opening kickoff.
Benda also returned a kickoff about 70 yards to switch the momentum after Martin County West scored to take an 18-8 lead in the third quarter.
Senior quarterback Christian Bachenberg threw a pair of touchdown passes and Rohman scored on a 1-yard run for the Mavericks.
The Mavericks outgained the Rebels 265-213 in total yards in a battle of two strong defensive clubs.
Bachenberg passed for 129 yards for MCW. Receiver Zach Anderson, a 6-6 junior, caught a touchdown pass and had an interception defensively.
For much of the second and third quarters, the Mavericks dominated time of possession and their defense proved stingy.
MCC head coach Patrick Freeman was pleased with his team’s response after falling behind for one of the first times this fall.
“The game could obviously have gone either way, and just came down to one play at the end,” Freeman said in a postgame radio interview. “Their defense is a different animal. It’s the real deal. We faced some adversity tonight, as we have at times this season. But our guys had a never-give-up mentality.
“I love the resiliency of this team and I’m super proud of the guys.”
Defensive leaders for MCC included Nate Kleven, Justin Scotting, Dawson Blankenship, Christian Kuball, Kevin Garcia and Corey Einck. Paulzine finished with 33 yards rushing and 40 yards passing.
Martin County West 6 6 6 0 -- 18
Murray County Central 8 0 8 8 -- 24