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State high school football: Pipestone Area, JCC playing for championships

Through their section tournaments and their first two games of the state tournament, Pipestone Area and Jackson County Central have made it look easy. Things could get a lot tougher real fast, however, as the Arrows and the Huskies play for state...

 

Through their section tournaments and their first two games of the state tournament, Pipestone Area and Jackson County Central have made it look easy.
Things could get a lot tougher real fast, however, as the Arrows and the Huskies play for state high school football championships against a pair of unbeaten squads.
At 1 p.m. Friday in TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Pipestone Area (13-0) will lock horns with Caledonia (13-0) for the Minnesota Class AA championship. Then at 1 p.m. Saturday, also at TCF Bank Stadium, Jackson County Central (10-2) goes against Pierz (12-0) for the Class AAA crown.
Here’s a look at the matchups:
Pipestone Area vs. Caledonia
The Arrows, who lost in the semifinals of the state tournament last year, are still looking for their first state football championship. The Warriors have already won six state titles. Like the Arrows, they lost in the semifinals in 2014.
This is a matchup made in high school football heaven, and there some obvious similarities to be made between the two teams.
Both teams are undefeated. Both teams have dominated the opposition throughout the year. Caledonia defeated teams 62-0, 48-0, 48-7, 48-0 and 43-6 since the start of posteason play. Pipestone Area beat rivals 56-0, 49-6, 31-7, 63-13 and 49-9 in the postseason.
Both teams are outstanding defensively. The Arrows have recorded five shutouts in their 13 games. The Warriors also have five.
Pipestone Area, amazingly, led its first state tournament opponent, Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted, 50-0 at halftime en route to its easy 63-13 victory. In its next game, the Arrows led United North Central 35-7 at the half, then coasted again to victory.
In Caledonia’s 43-6 win over Ottertail Central on Saturday, quarterback Owen King matched a season high with five touchdown passes.
He’s a sophomore.
Here’s the line on Caledonia according to first-year PA head coach Clay Anderson:
“They throw the ball really well. The sophomore quarterback is a very good player. All three receivers are very athletic. Defensively, they’re very quick. ... We’re more brawny, probably. They’re probably quicker.”
Pipestone Area’s braun, led by senior lineman Blake Wolters (voted the top offensive lineman in the Big South Conference in 2014) not only has a habit of routinely stuffing opponents’ plans; the Arrows often do it in dramatic fashion, by forcing turnovers.
Unfortunately for the Arrows, the availability of one of their top offensive players, Austin Moeller, will be a game-time decision on Friday. Moeller, the team’s most productive running back as well as an outstanding linebacker, sustained a knee injury in the second quarter of the game with UNC.
Anderson said this week that Moeller - even if he plays - won’t be at 100 percent.
The game plan for the championship game, said Anderson, is to control the football - to grind out first downs with the run. Quarterback Brayden Baartman is also a gifted runner.
As always, however, the Arrows lead with their defense.
“It’s gotten better as the year’s gone on,” said Anderson, who cited improved keys and reads and a secondary that has made weekly gains.
JCC vs. Pierz
Pierz is another team accustomed to reaching for the highest levels. The Pioneers are in the midst of their third consecutive state tournament appearance and 11th appearance overall.
But they know their football in Jackson, too. This year marks the sixth appearance in the state tournament for JCC, but before the Huskies came into existence - in 1985 - current offensive coordinator Wade Wacker quarterbacked Jackson to a state championship.
Fast forward to 2015 and Wacker jokes that he’s got the easiest job in the world. His two star running backs, seniors Keegan Moore and Avery Henderson, have rushed for more than 300 yards in each of the last two games.
Moore has rewritten the JCC record books this year. Henderson has made great strides - literally.
“We knew what we had in Keegan. We knew he could be special,” Wacker said Wednesday. “Avery Henderson, last year in the game where Keegan tore his MCL, he came in in the game against Redwood Valley and ran for over 200 yards.”
It was after his junior season, said Wacker, that Henderson made friends with the weight room and added 15 to 20 pounds to his bulk.
JCC has won 10 straight games heading into Saturday’s contest. The Huskies have scored more than 50 points five times this season.
Head coach Tom Schuller and the other Jackson County Central coaches are wary of the Pioneers.
“Their size,” said Wacker. “Their defensive tackles are really big. And physical. They go 290 and 295.”
That’s bigger than any of the Huskies up front. But it never pays to overlook JCC, which has regularly carved holes for Henderson and Moore to run through, and played good defense. Even though the running game is primary, the Huskies also feature a good passer and runner in Easton Bahr and a handful of quick, sure-handed receivers.
“We’ve been on quite a run since Game Two. The kids have built confidence in themselves in what they can do. And they’re very smart kids. They get themselves in a position to play,” Wacker said.
In Pierz’s 29-6 win over Tri-City United last week, starter Aaron Weber and backup Preston Rocheleau both sustained injuries. But Weber came back in the second half to throw a touchdown after re-injuring an ankle that he’d tweaked in the game before.

 

 

Doug Wolter joined the Worthington Globe in December of 1983 as a sports reporter. He later became sports editor, and then news editor and managing editor. In 2006 he moved to Mankato with his wife, Sandy, and served as an editor at the Mankato Free Press. In 2013 he and Sandy returned to Worthington to take up the job of sports editor at The Globe, and they have been in Worthington since.

Doug can be reached at dwolter@dglobe.com.
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