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Powerful MLA keeps rolling along, beats HL-O/Fulda

football

MOUNTAIN LAKE -- Mountain Lake Area football coach Tim Kirk said quarterback Abraham Stoesz runs the 40-yard dash in about 4.65 seconds, but “he’s faster in pads.”

Nine-man defenses haven’t caught up to the sparkling senior all season.

Stoesz ran for 174 yards and two touchdowns as the unbeaten MLA Wolverines cruised past the Heron Lake-Okabena/Fulda Coyotes 56-20 here Saturday afternoon in a Section 3 Nine-Man semifinal.

Stoesz threw a pair of touchdown passes and junior running back Mace Herrig ran for 176 yards and three scores as coach Tim Kirk’s Wolverines improved to 10-0 and advanced to a section championship game Friday against Hills-Beaver Creek in Marshall.

Mountain Lake finished runner-up to state champion Spring Grove last fall and has been ranked No. 1 among Minnesota Nine-Man teams this season.

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“They’re probably going to win state and they’re definitely going to play in the Dome (Prep Bowl),” said HLO/F co-coach Jonathon Curry. “It’s a really, really good football team. They’re just good all over.”

Stoesz has more than 1,600 yards rushing this season. On the first play Saturday the speedster ripped off a 23-yard run that eventually led to a Herrig 6-yard scoring burst. Stoesz, a 6-foot, 175-pounder, added a 71-yard touchdown dash a few moments later.

“He’s just an athlete,” said Wolverines’ junior halfback-linebacker Matt Madsen. “It’s almost impossible to stop him.”

Herrig, a 165-pounder with deceptive speed, rambled 87 yards to score later in the first quarter.

The Wolverines, who averaged 53 points and 467 yards of offense in the regular season, led 28-0 after one quarter and 49-0 at the half en route to the decisive victory. Ethan Nickel ran for a score and caught a touchdown pass, and Brett Willaby also hauled in a TD pass from Stoesz.

“They’ve got nine guys that go hard all the time,” Madsen said. “They don’t stop.”

The Wolverines’ first-string offense went 8-for-8, scoring touchdowns on each of its possessions. Stoesz delivered several of the early knockout blows.

“We came out strong. Our line gave us a good push and made some big holes,” Stoesz said. “We’ve got a very good line.”

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Senior center Isaac Grev, a 6-3, 290-pounder, is the Wolverines’ main man up front. Sophomore guards Kade Wassman and Kaden Haberman are also fine players.

Mountain Lake Area defeated HLO/Fulda 62-20 in a regular-season game on Oct. 11, and the Wolverines obviously weren’t looking past the Coyotes on this day.

“You can’t overlook anybody if you want to win the trophy,” said Herrig.

How have the Wolverines, who outgained the Coyotes 436-251 in total yards, maintained their edge all fall?

“Hard work, practice and conditioning. Constantly,” Herrig said.

The Coyotes, who finished the season 3-7, scored three second-half touchdowns. Junior quarterback Eli Fest threw a 12-yard TD strike to Zach Thier and senior Tyler Madison raced 70 yards on a reverse for a score. Late in the game, Fest got loose for a 20-yard run but instead of taking it in downed the ball at the Mountain Lake 1-yard line. He handed off to Dylan Johanning for a score on the next play in an obvious show of respect for his senior teammate.

The Coyotes have reason for future optimism as Fest, who passed for 104 yards against the fine MLA defense, and Madsen are among the standouts slated to return to the roster next fall.

The Wolverines aren’t looking that far ahead just yet. They’re instead hopeful of taking care of some unfinished business in the state playoffs.

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And that starts with their great senior quarterback.

“We’re glad to have him. And we need him if we’re going to go all the way,” said Kirk. “But we’ve got to worry first about next week, which is going to be a battle with (Hills-Beaver Creek).”

Kickoff is 11:30 a.m. Friday morning on the campus of Southwest Minnesota State University.

HL-O/Fulda 0 0 6 14 - 20

Mountain Lake 28 21 0 7 - 56

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