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home : sports : sports
December 10, 2019

11/30/2019 8:05:00 PM
Wolverines rally past Owls for nine-man state championship

Hancock 00-14-00-00 = 14
MLA 00-14-08-00 = 22

The Mt. Lake Area football team capped an undefeated season Saturday with a thrilling 22-14 come-from-behind victory over Hancock in the Class Nine-Man Prep Bowl, played at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

The win gave the Wolverines the first state football championship in school history. Mt. Lake was the Class C state runners-up in 1980. Mt. Lake-Butterfield-Odin was the Class A runner-up in 2002 and MLA was the nine-man state runner-up a season ago.

Saturday, the Wolverines faced significant adversity for the first time all season, as the Owls scored twice early in the second quarter to take a 14-0 lead. It was the first time the Wolverines had trailed all season.

But MLA's offense regrouped, eventually tying the game with two seconds left in the first half. The Wolverines took the lead late in the third quarter, and the MLA defense made the lead stick.

MLA started the game by driving the ball deep into Owl territory. But on third down from the Hancock 9, a pass from quarterback Abraham Stoesz was intercepted in the end zone by Hancock's Daniel Milander, giving the Owls the ball.

After forcing the Owls into a three-and-out to start the game, MLA had the ball in Owl territory again, but a fumble on first-and-10 from the Hancock 24 turned the ball over to the Owls.

Hancock turned that Wolverine miscue into the game's first points, marching 79 yards in 13 plays. On second-and-goal from the Wolverine 6, Hancock quarterback Preston Rohloff lofted a 6-yard touchdown pass to Milander. The two-point conversion failed, but Hancock put the Wolverines at a 6-0 deficit for the first time all season with 8:47 left in the second quarter.

Disaster then struck for the Wolverines three plays later. On third down, a screen pass intended for Ethan Nickel was intercepted by Hancock's Matt Thompson, who rumbled through tacklers 32 yards for an Owl touchdown. The two-point conversion pass from Rohloff to Brandon Kellenberger gave Hancock a 14-0 lead with 7:48 to go in the first half.

But after three early turnovers, the Wolverine offense settled in on its next drive. MLA needed just five plays to cover 65 yards, scoring on a 3-yard Mace Herrig touchdown run. The two-point run failed, leaving Hancock with a 14-6 lead with 5:45 to go before halftime.

The next drive proved critical for the game's momentum. Hancock moved quickly into Wolverine territory, but on fourth-and-1 from the MLA 39, Owl fullback Dalton Rose was stuffed for no gain, giving MLA the ball on downs.

The Wolverines took advantage, covering 61 yards in eight plays with less than two minutes to go in the first half. A 34-yard pass from Stoesz to Brett Willaby put MLA in scoring position. And with just two seconds left in the first half, Stoesz lobbed an 11-yard touchdown strike to Adam Karschnik. MLA faked the extra-point kick, with Stoesz hooking up with Karschnik again, tying the game at 14-14 at halftime.

Hancock started the second half by driving into Wolverine territory again. But a key quarterback sack by Herrig forced the Owls into a long-yardage situation. On fourth-and-16 from the MLA 25, Rohloff's pass fell incomplete, turning the ball over on downs.

The Wolverines capitalized with a clock-eating 75-yard, 13-play drive. MLA converted a fake punt for a 17-yard pickup on fourth-and-8 from its own 27. Herrig added a 12-yard run and Stoesz capped the drive by with a 5-yard touchdown run that saw him dive just inside the pylon. Stoesz hit Willaby with the two-point conversion pass, giving the Wolverines a 22-14 lead.

MLA's defense then put the heat on the Hancock offense, as MLA slowed down All-State running back Tyler Timmerman much of the game. A holding penalty led to a three-and-out and a punt.

MLA took over on its own 18 early in the fourth quarter and moved quickly to the Hancock 29. But a pair of penalties eventually led to an MLA punt.

The Owls' were able to pick up a first down on their next drive. But on first-and-10 from the Hancock 43, a trick play went awry, as a mishandled pitch on a flea-flicker play led to a 15-yard loss. After a 16-yard completion, Hancock misfired on fourth down, turning the ball over on downs with time winding down.

MLA was forced into a fourth-and-2 from the Owl 36-yard line. On the play, Stoesz slithered through the line and dove to the 33, giving MLA a first down and allowing the Wolverines to kneel out the clock for a state championship.

Stoesz led the Wolverines with 140 yards rushing on 22 carries. Herrig added 97 yards on 25 carries.

Stoesz completed 6-of-13 passes for 92 yards. Willaby had three receptions for 47 yards.

Defensively, Herrig recorded three quarterback sacks in the win.

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