HL-O/F finds L-O's Johnson brothers hard to handle
HERON LAKE — The unbeaten Leroy-Ostrander Cardinals have many fine football players, and it was clear Friday night that if one of the Johnson boys doesn’t get it done the other one will.
Senior halfback Carter Johnson rushed for 138 yards and two touchdowns and his little brother Chase passed for 118 yards and two scores as the Cardinals defeated the Heron Lake-Okabena/Fulda Coyotes 49-12 in a Nine-Man clash.
Riley Olson caught a touchdown pass and recovered a fumble in the end zone for another score, and Isaac Collier scored on a 65-yard kickoff return as the Cardinals, ranked second in the state by the Associated Press, turned back the Coyotes.
“Our team is awesome. I’m loving it,” Carter Johnson said.
The rugged running back also played well defensively as the Cardinals took full advantage of four Coyote turnovers. Heron Lake-Okabena/Fulda fumbled on its first play from scrimmage, providing the Cardinals a short field, and later in the first half Olson pounced on a Coyote fumble in the end zone.
“Our defense plays very aggressive,” said Cardinals’ coach Trevor Carrier. “Hats off to those guys (at HL-O/Fulda). They played hard. We were extremely sick the whole week. In the first half our offense we sputtered a little bit.”
No problem with the Johnson brothers, though.
“They’re tough kids, man,” Carrier said. “They’re tough to play against. You stop one and you’ve got the other one to deal with. We have a good balanced squad here and that’s how we get the job done.”
The Cardinals had 200 yards of offense in the first half, but the team needed the turnovers to build a 19-6 edge.
Said Carter Johnson: “That was the worst first half we’ve played this season. It was bad. We got it all together after that.”
The Coyotes got a short touchdown run and a TD pass from junior quarterback Eli Fest. The southpaw QB connected with Zach Thier on a 10-yard scoring strike late in the fourth quarter, one play after Dominic White hauled in a diving 43-yard reception.
White likes the resolve of his team.
“We tried to put up a heckuva fight,” he said. “In the end, they’re a really good team.”
Chase Johnson ran for 63 yards and Collier added 56 on the ground as the Cardinals rushed for 263 yards. The 6-0 club finished with 381 yards of total offense, compared with the Coyotes’ 175 yards.
“We’ve been executing really well offensively, and tonight we just came up against a really tough and quick defense,” said HL-O/Fulda co-coach Jonathon Curry. “To our kids’ credit, the defense picked up the slack in the first half, but we just didn’t execute very well on offense.”
Leroy-Ostrander had a lot to do with that.
“There’s a reason they’re ranked where they are and a reason they’ve beaten the teams they’ve beaten,” Curry said. “They’re a whole different level of athleticism.”
The Cardinals are tall, talented and tough. The team had a size advantage on the lines, and the elusive Chase Johnson often slipped tackles while eluding Coyote defenders.
Fest had some fine moments for the Coyotes. He completed seven passes for 142 yards. But he was sacked often as the HL-O/Fulda running game never got untracked.
“He got dinged up a little bit but he hung tough and threw the ball well,” Curry said of the Coyote junior QB. “He didn’t have a lot of time, but we tried to make the most of it. Our guys kept running their routes and doing the things they were supposed to do.
“We absolutely had some bright spots.”
No matter what the scoreboard says, the players from Fulda and Heron Lake-Okabena seem to be the clear winners this fall. Paired for the first time in football, the new co-op has earned rave reviews.
“I hope we can keep this combination going for many years to come,” said White, a sophomore who hails from Round Lake and attends school at HL-O. “Everything is going splendid. I think it’s been an amazing thing.”
Curry, who teaches and coaches in Fulda, agrees.
“The kids like each other, it’s been a good fit with the coaches and it’s been fun,” said Curry, who shares head coaching responsibilities with HL-O’s Jared Bourquin. “Whether it’s compete on the varsity of play JV games, this gives us an opportunity to do things we haven’t been able to do for a really long time. It’s been a great thing.”
Leroy-Ostrander 6 13 23 7 — 49
Heron Lake-Okabena/Fulda 0 6 0 6 — 12