Saturday’s Class 1A football state semifinal game at the Metrodome was another ho-hummer for the Mahnomen Indians. Their formula is a basic one: Run the football, score some points and keep the opponent floundering in a sea of scoreboard donuts.
The Indians (13-0), who will play Dawson-Boyd (12-1) in the Prep Bowl on Nov. 30, are on an amazing run. Not only are they unbeaten this season, they have a record of 51-2 since the start of the 2010 season. They lost in the state quarterfinals that year, lost to Dawson-Boyd 35-20 in the 2011 Prep Bowl and went unbeaten in winning the state championship last year.
Mahnomen defeated Bethlehem Academy 19-0 Saturday while rushing for 225 yards and holding the Cardinals to 175 total yards. Bethlehem Academy was averaging 27 points per game.
“Everyone plays their position,” said Mahnomen sophomore defensive back Kody Lefebvre, who had a team-high five tackles and one interception. “We have no heroes on this team. It’s just 11 guys doing their job.”
Quarterback Tom Pavek scored on a 1-yard run and threw a 29-yard pass to Nathan Hanson for a score. Austin Reitan also scored for the Indians on a 12-yard run.
“There’s a lot of pride in the boys,” Mahnomen coach John Clark Jr. said. “We did exactly what we wanted to do, run the ball and play defense. We gave up some plays on defense but I thought we did a great job of stiffening up when we had to. We had a lot of kids who made key plays at key times.”
Mahnomen is making its 22nd appearance in the state football playoffs, and the Indians won state championships in 1980, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1998 and 2012.
After last season’s title run, there were mild concerns about the defensive side of the ball this year. But those worries pretty much went poof after the Indians opened the season by giving up only 14 points in the first four games.
“We thought we were going to take a hit on defense a little bit this year, but it’s amazing,” Clark said. “We have kids who step up. Everyboy says that, but we do. Kids who haven’t played much at all on the varsity other than mop-up time, they come in, and if they’re a senior they play like they’re a third-year starter, and if they’re a sophomore they play like they’ve been there for two years. It’s amazing.”
Mahnomen has now recorded eight shutouts in 13 games, and only two teams have scored in double figures (a 42-14 win over Red Lake County in Week 2 and a 28-12 victory over Upsala/Swanville in the state quarterfinals).
Thoughts will now turn to the Prep Bowl and Dawson-Boyd; the Blackjacks were the last team to beat Mahnomen.
“It makes it a little more exciting, I think,” said Clark. “Our teams have some assistant coaches who roomed in college together. They’ve been communicating all year; we’ve had our eye on them obviously and they’ve kind of had their eye on us. They got us last time; obviously we want to turn the tables. But two weeks is a lot of preparation. It’ll be interesting to see who can come up with something a little new and who can take away the others’ strengths.”
We can be sure of one thing: Mahnomen won’t change its winning formula.
“Play D and win ugly, that’s good enough for us,” Clark said. “I’d rather be winning ugly here in November than sitting at home looking pretty.”
--Since Bethlehem Academy didn’t score a touchdown Saturday, the fans did not get to see Cardinals kicker Lexi Temple. She came into the state semifinals with a stellar record on extra-point kicks, making 39 of 40 attempts this season. She plays on the Faribault High School girls soccer team (a cooperative team with Bethlehem Academy), and one of the season highlights came when her football teammates came en masse to the Cardinals’ Teacher Appreciation Night game and saw Lexi score two goals.
CLASS 1A/ DAWSON-BOYD 27, SLEEPY EYE ST. MARY’S 18
Joey Lee ran for two touchdowns and passed for two more as the Blackjacks moved to the Prep Bowl in hopes of winning their second state title in three years. Lee’s rushing touchdowns came from 1 and 38 yards, and he threw to Michael Lee for a 36-yard score and to Noah Stelter for 24 yards and a TD.
Joey Lee completed seven of 19 passes for 175 yards. Dalton Palmer led Dawson-Boyd in rushing with 13 carries for 69 yards. David Surprenant of Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s carried 16 times for 103 yards and Brandon Helget ran 19 times for 90 yards and two touchdowns. Helget also threw a 63-yard touchdown pass to Surprenant.
CLASS 3A/ ST. CROIX LUTHERAN 3, PROCTOR 0
The game’s only points came with three seconds left in the fourth quarter when the Crusaders’ Alex Bornschlegl kicked a 23-yard field goal. It was a defensive struggle which featured only 15 pass attempts and three completions. Proctor (9-3) finished with 86 total yards to 281 for St. Croix Lutheran (10-2). The teams combined for 15 punts.
Sr. Croix Lutheran’s Hans Klingenschmitt rushed 25 times for 135 yards. Joe Carter led Proctor with 13 rushes for 51 yards.
CLASS 3A/ NEW LONDON-SPICER 36, ROCHESTER LOURDES 16
The Wildcats scored 20 points in the second and 16 in the third to defeat the Eagles and advance to the Prep Bowl against St. Croix Lutheran. Adam Essler rushed 18 times for 171 yards and two touchdowns for the Wildcats and Jarret Hatlestad ran eight times for 110 yards and a TD as New London-Spicer ran for a total of 317 yards. Lourdes quarterback Michael Brandt completed eight of 16 passes for 133 yards.
CLASS 5A/ BRAINERD 20, CHASKA 19
The game went down to the very last second before the Warriors advanced to the Prep Bowl. Brainerd took the 20-19 lead on a 41-yard run by Conor Gessell with 7:10 left in the third quarter, and Brainerd’s defense kept the Hawks out of the end zone after that.
Chaska missed a 27-yard field goal with 5:05 to play. The Hawks’ final possession ended when they were stopped on downs at the Brainerd 32 with 50 seconds remaining. Brainerd held the ball the rest of the game.
Nine-man/ Underwood 34, Ely 20
Class 2A/ Minneota/Lincoln HI (12-0) vs. Maple Lake (8-4)
Class 4A/ Hutchinson 35, Delano 9
Class 6A/ Rosemount 35, Roseville 28
Nine-man/ Grand Meadow 21, Kittson Central 7
Class 2A/ Chatfield 41, Hawley 21
Class 5A/ Owatonna 27, St. Michael-Albertville 7
Class 4A/ Holy Angels 33, DeLaSalle 21
Class 6A/ Eden Prairie 47, Totino-Grace 22
Class 1A/ Dawson-Boyd 27, Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s 18
Class 1A/ Mahnomen 19, Bethlehem Academy 0
Class 3A/ St. Croix Lutheran 3, Proctor 0
Class 3A/ New London-Spicer 36, Rochester Lourdes 16
Class 5A/ Brainerd 20, Chaska 19
PREP BOWL MATCHUPS
Friday, Nov. 29
10 a.m.: Nine-man/ Underwood (10-3) vs. Grand Meadow (12-1)
1 p.m: Class 2A/ Minneota (13-0) vs. Chatfield (12-1)
4 p.m.: Class 4A/ Hutchinson (12-0) vs. Holy Angels (7-5)
7 p.m.: Class 6A/ Eden Prairie (11-0) vs. Rosemount (11-1)
Saturday, Nov. 30
10 a.m.: Class 1A/ Dawson-Boyd (12-1) vs. Mahnomen (13-0)
1 p.m.: Class 3A/ St. Croix Lutheran (10-2) vs. New London-Spicer (10-2)
4 p.m.: Class 5A/ Brainerd (12-0) vs. Owatonna (12-0)
--To see a photo gallery from Saturday's games, go to the MSHSL Facebook page. Photos on this page and Facebook were provided by Ian Jamieson, a student at Prior Lake High School and a member of the MSHSL Student Media Program.
--Diet Coke Count: 4 for the day, 14 for the state football tournament, 35 for the fall state tournaments.
BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited:185
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 5,212
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn