Section 3A 9-Man football: MLA powers past W-WG
BY LES KNUTSON The Globe MARSHALL -- Displaying an arsenal of speed from an assortment of fleet-footed running backs, an effective passing game and a hard-hitting defense which swarmed to the ball, the fourth-seeded Mountain Lake Area Wolverines ...
BY LES KNUTSON
MARSHALL -- Displaying an arsenal of speed from an assortment of fleet-footed running backs, an effective passing game and a hard-hitting defense which swarmed to the ball, the fourth-seeded Mountain Lake Area Wolverines overwhelmed Westbrook-Walnut Grove Thursday evening in the Section 3 Nine-Man championship game.
Playing on the artificial turf of Mattke Field at the Schwan Regional Event Center on the campus of Southwest Minnesota State University (SMSU), the Wolverines took command early and dominated the second quarter as they built an impressive 44-0 halftime lead.
W-WG, the section’s third-seed, was unable to sustain any first-half drives and the Wolverines capitalized on a pair of second-quarter Charger turnovers, increasing their advantage.
Each team scored 14 second-half points before MLA left the field with a 58-14 victory and celebrated its third nine-man sectional championship in the past six years. The Wolverines won back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013.
Improving to 8-3 on the season and riding a five-game winning streak, MLA will play Section 2 champion Russell-Tyler-Ruthton (a 20-14 winner over previously undefeated Red Rock Central) in the state tournament quarterfinals next Friday (Nov. 10) at 5 p.m. in New Ulm, at the high school’s new field.
“We’re looking forward to playing in the state tournament and playing on New Ulm’s new field, which I have heard is really nice,” said MLA head coach Tim Kirk. “Our team has really stepped it up as the season has progressed and the boys are playing at a very high level right now.”
MLA scored on its third play of the game when sophomore quarterback Abraham Stoesz broke loose up the middle on a 53-yard touchdown run, giving his team a quick 6-0 lead.
A bit later, Stoesz intercepted a pass at the Wolverine 12-yard line drive, stopping W-WG’s longest drive of the first half. A few plays after that, senior running back Reynaldo Capetillo -- one of the area’s finest track sprinters -- dashed 76 yards for MLA’s second touchdown. Stoesz completed a pass to senior back AJ Vongsy for the two-point conversion and a 14-0 lead.
Playing with plenty of defensive intensity, the Wolverines stymied W-WG’s offense the rest of the quarter and then tacked on four more touchdowns, along with a trio of two-pointers, in an all-around eye-opening performance in the 12 minutes of the second quarter.
W-WG, which suffered five injuries during the contest, lost senior Lincoln Anderson, a two-way starter (offensive center, defensive tackle) early in the first quarter. Senior running back/linebacker Kyle Kuehl also left the game briefly with an injury.
MLA made the score 20-0 early in the second period when senior running back Jeff Wright took a pitch from Stoesz and accelerated 31 yards to the end zone at the 11:14 mark. The Chargers, for the second time, snuffed the two-point PAT attempt.
A dandy pass interception by freshman Mace Herrig set up MLA’s fourth touchdown. Herrig picked off the pass near midfield and returned the pigskin 33 yards to the Charger 15. Four plays later, Vongsy plunged two yards for six points and Stoesz’s pass to Vongsy put two more on the board for a 28-0 lead with 8:12 still to play in the second quarter.
During that span of action, the Chargers suffered two more injuries as both sophomore running back/linebacker Jace Paplow and junior running back/linebacker Andrew Quade left the game for several plays.
With field position in its favor, the Wolverines scored again when junior defensive end David Larson blocked a Charger punt inside the 10-yard line and sophomore nose guard Isaac Grev recovered the ball in the end zone for six more points. Stoesz completed another conversion pass -- this time to Capetillo -- and with 3:05 to play in the half, it was 36-0 in favor of MLA.
Grev later recovered a Charger fumble and the Wolverines had possession at the W-WG 21-yard line with a minute to play. Stoesz hit Vongsy with a short pass and the 155-pound speedster juked his way into the end zone for MLA’s sixth touchdown of the half. Stoesz found junior tight end Drake Harder for the two-point conversion and a 44-0 lead with 50 seconds showing on the clock.
Coming out the break, the Chargers mounted a nice drive as senior quarterback Anthony Ross completed a pass to Quade for a first down and Paplow later rushed for a first down. But, W-WG missed a pair of golden opportunities. The first time, the Chargers were unable to recover a fumble by the Wolverines on a punt return. A bit later, the Chargers dropped a chance at an interception at midfield.
MLA capitalized on those missed opportunities with a well-executed screen pass from Stoesz to Vongsy which went 60 yards for a touchdown with 7:10 remaining in the third quarter. Stoesz completed a pass to junior tight end Zachary Spinks for the two-point conversion and a 52-0 lead.
The Chargers finally got on the board late in the quarter when Kuehl broke loose with a 37-yard run on a sweep left which moved the ball from the MLA 43 to the six-yard line. Wolverine senior defensive back Weston Osland made a touchdown-saving tackle on Kuehl’s run. Quade’s five-yard burst moved the ball to the one-yard line and, on the next play, Quade ran behind Paplow’s block for a W-WG touchdown.
Ross passed to younger brother Nathan Ross, a sophomore, for the two-point conversion and with 2:59 left in the quarter, it was 52-8.
Capetillo countered with a 56-yard kick return and a few plays later, after a 17-yard run by Herrig, the Wolverines increased their lead to 58-8 on a 10-yard TD run by Stoesz with 1:37 left in the quarter.
With running time during the fourth quarter and substitutes getting lots of action, the game moved swiftly.
A pass interception and a 25-yard return by MLA junior Sam Paulson was a Wolverine highlight early in the quarter.
Nathan Ross, playing quarterback for the Chargers in the fourth quarter, snapped off a 42-yard keeper up the middle sustaining a late W-WG drive, which was capped by junior running back Jake Kleven’s five-yard touchdown burst.
Vongsy caught three passes for 93 yards, while Capetillo (78 yards on three carries), Wright (64 yards on eight rushes) and Stoesz (61 yards on four carries) combined for the bulk of MLA’s ground attack.
“We’re very balanced,” summed up Kirk. “We don’t have anyone with huge rushing stats for the season. We just have a bunch of guys who can carry the ball and get us yards when we need them.”
W-WG, which graduates seven seniors, finishes a fine season with a 7-4 record.
MLA 14 30 14 0 – 58
W-WG 0 0 8 6 -- 14