It’s mid-October. And every football player, coach and fan in Minnesota knows what that means: Time is short. One game remains in the regular season, with Week 8 coming up this week, followed by the quick-hitting early playoff rounds and settling in for the parade to the Prep Bowl.
Time is short, and the Week 7 games whittled the number of unbeaten teams in our state. Seven teams suffered their first loss, leaving 31 undefeated teams remaining with one game remaining. The big Week 7 shocker came when second-ranked Edina won at No. 1 Eden Prairie 17-6 in a Class 6A game between Lake Conference neighbors.
For dramatics, big plays, a big crowd and absolute fun, no game was better Friday than the Hiawatha Valley League matchup of Kasson-Mantorville and Rochester Lourdes. Both teams walked onto the artificial turf at University Center in Rochester with 7-0 records and bragging rights on the line. The Lourdes Eagles are top-ranked in Class 3A and the Kasson-Mantorville Komets are No. 7 in Class 4A.
Both teams brought astounding point differentials: Lourdes’ six victories had come by an average score of 41-11, and Kasson-Mantorville’s count was 46-17. The total points scored Friday came close to each team’s average, but Lourdes scored first, scored again quickly and used an early 15-0 cushion to hold off the Komets 36-28.
The opening seven minutes went like this: Kasson loses 15 yards on fourth and nine … Lourdes needs only five plays before quarterback Mark Pagel runs 43 yards for a touchdown … Kasson loses a fumble on its next snap … eight plays later Griff Slightham scores on a four-yard run and the Eagles are in front 15-0.
Erase those touchdown and the Komets win 28-21. Unfortunately for Kasson-Mantorville, scoreboards don’t come with erasers.
“These are two good defensive teams,” Komets coach Ivan Kroulik said. “They were just better than us. You just admit that and you take your lumps.”
It was 15-8 at halftime, and Lourdes made another big statement to open the second half. The Eagles moved 74 yards in six plays, with Pagel covering the final 50 on one big run. It was 22-8, the rest of the game was even points-wise and the Eagles walked off the field carrying an 8-0 record and 500-watt smiles.
“We had a nice drive to go down and score,” Lourdes coach Mike Kesler said. “That was a great start, and we had talked about that. And the opening drive of the second half was almost 80 yards to get another score and set the tone for the second half. That was huge.”
Both teams play rugged defense but they are dissimilar on offense. Kasson-Mantorville is a no-huddle team that throws the ball a bit -- quarterback Riley Donovan completed 13 of 20 for 158 yards and two scores – while Lourdes is as run-oriented as they come. Six Eagles combined for 55 rushes, 340 yards and six touchdowns against the Komets, while Pagel completed the only pass he threw for 11 yards.
Pagel led his team with 18 carries for 118 yards and two scores, and Kasson’s Broc Berge ran 23 times for 128 yards and a touchdown.
The biggest defensive play of the night came with Kasson on offense … so you know how this ends. The Komets were stopped on fourth and one at the Lourdes 19 with 1:34 left in the third quarter, and the Eagles followed with a 30-yard touchdown run by Kane Carsten for a 29-15 lead. Boom. Another statement.
“They ran the bal,” Kroulik said. “We thought we were going to be able to stop them and they ran the ball well. We had a couple of turnovers that really hurt us. We came out in the second half strong, had the fourth and one and we didn’t get it; I thought that was one of the turning points of the game.”
Kesler said, “Our defense has been playing very well and we knew we were going to have our hands full. That’s a great Kasson program, which we have a lot of respect for. It’s a great rivalry. We made a big play.”
The final analysis included this common thread: That early 15-0 lead – even though a lot of football remained to be played -- was crucial for Lourdes.
“That was huge,” Pagel said. “To go into half with any kind of lead against a really good team, you’ve got to be able to do that. It’s really huge. You’ve got to have a lead against teams, you’ve got to hold them off. They came back later on, and we needed that cushion.”
And now we move on to Week 8. It’s a shortie, with a few games on Tuesday, the bulk of the contests on Wednesday and a handful on Thursday. After this week’s games, the section playoff pairings will be set and the second season will get underway.
Kasson-Mantorville’s hard-working boys were back at practice at 8 o’clock Saturday morning to begin preparing for a Wednesday home game against Stewartville. Lourdes will play at La Crescent the same night.
“With one game left we’ve got a lot of work to do,” Pagel said. “We’ve got to keep coming together, keep working hard. We’ve got a long ways to go.”
BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 201
*Miles John has driven: 3,350
(*During the 2012-13 school year)
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