MANKATO – Owatonna quarterback Ian Langeberg, who threw for three touchdowns Friday night, was on the bench and averting his gaze during the game’s final play against Mankato West. Huskies kicker Carter McCauley was lining up a 38-yard field goal. If he makes it, Owatonna wins. Miss and the Big 9 Conference game goes to overtime between the two highest-ranked football teams in Class 5A: No. 1 Owatonna and No. 2 West.
There was plenty of drama, however, even before the kick sailed off into the night. First, West called a timeout. No surprise there, it’s the old “ice the kicker” theory. Make him think about it too much. Make a little doubt creep into his mind. And then came the unthinkable … Owatonna called a timeout. Yes, the Huskies iced their own kicker.
Holder Ty Sullivan had noticed that something was missing. Specifically, the Huskies were missing a player. Only 10 of them were on the field.
“We subbed out our entire PAT team this year to try and shore it up and one of the kids forgot he was on it,” Huskies coach Jeff Williams explained. “So I iced my own kicker.”
No matter. After the dueling timeouts, long snapper Tyler Vogt whistled the ball to Sullivan and McCauley boomed that baby through the posts. Owatonna wins 24-21.
“It didn’t really faze me or anything, it was more a time to get focused, I guess,” McCauley said of the double icing. “I was focusing on my target, I wasn’t thinking about the crowd or anything.”
Now, back to Langeberg. The senior had an exceptional night, throwing touchdown passes of 40 yards to Sullivan, 11 to Sam Fenske and 10 to Luke Wanous. But as the kicking team lined up, the quarterback couldn’t look. And that had nothing to do with a lack of confidence in McCauley.
“Carter’s awesome,” Langeberg said. “He’s worked hard at that for the last couple years. I have complete confidence in the guy. I did not watch it, though. I was just looking at the ground. I felt everybody around me stand up and our side just go crazy. It was crazy.”
Crazy good. For Owatonna certainly, but also for the Scarlets and their giant crowd of fans. The sportsmanship on both sides of the field was exceptional; I heard no grumbling from the West fans, one of whom said to another as they left picturesque Todnem Field, “That was a heck of a game.”
In fact, it was nearly two different games. Owatonna ran a wide-open spread offense in the first half (passing for 219 yards) but switched to a power game in the second. West ran only 19 plays in the second half, thanks to the Huskies’ clock-killing attack (and 30 plays).
“We have the spread concept and we have a power concept and there’s a bleed-in between,” Williams said. “The pendulum kind of swung toward the power game. I had a nice talk with our O line coach, Doug Wanous, at halftime, and he said we need to go off tackle and get outside on these guys. We were still able to throw the ball pretty effectively, I thought, but we started to control the line of scrimmage in the second half and that made all the difference.”
The biggest play of the game – pre-field goal – was a turnover. West was on the Huskies 6-yard line late in the first quarter when a shotgun snap bounced around and was recovered by Owatonna lineman and future Minnesota Gopher Andrew Stelter. It wasn’t long until Langeberg threw to Sullivan for the 40-yard score and 7-0 Huskies lead.
The Scarlets tied it 7-7 when Ryan Schlichte hit Will Claussen for a 40-yard score late in the first quarter, and the same duo hooked up for a 19-yard touchdown pass with 35 seconds left in the first half, putting West in front 14-7 at the break.
Owatonna put together a powerful drive in the third quarter, running the ball with authority. The Huskies tied it 14-14 when Langeberg dropped back, escaped pressure, scrambled and hit Fenske from the 11.
The Huskies flexed those same muscles on their next drive, which was kept alive when Andrew Petersen ran for five yards on fourth down at the West 20. The go-ahead score came on the 10-yarder from Langeberg to Luke Wanous, making it Owatonna 21, West 14 as the third quarter ended. West’s Schlichte capped the Scarlets’ next drive with a 1-yard quarterback draw for a score, and it was 21-21.
Schlichte completed 14 of 26 passes for 170 yards. Claussen caught six of those passes for 102 yards and the two touchdowns.
McCauley began getting loose and going through his warmup routine when the Huskies got the ball with two and a half minutes to play. After the double icing, he did his job.
“Right when I hit it, I knew it was in,” he said.
In last season’s Class 5A state quarterfinals, Owatonna beat Mankato West 28-0. Should the Huskies and Scarlets meet again this season it will be in the Prep Bowl.
Langeberg, in keeping with his decision to not watch McCauley’s kick, does not want to even speak of the state championship game.
“We don’t like to talk about that very much,” he said. “It’s a long ways away, a lot of things have to happen right for us to get there.”
--To see a photo gallery from the Owatonna-Mankato West game, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.
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