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CLASS AAA STATE FOOTBALL: NL-S comes through in key spots in win over W-M

MINNEAPOLIS – Watertown-Mayer football coach Andrew Phillips knew his team would be in for a battle. He was right.

When the Royals faced off against fellow East Central South district opponent New London-Spicer in the Class AAA semifinals, it was the big plays at key moments that helped the Wildcats come out on top with a 33-28 win over the W-M at US Bank Stadium Nov. 18.

“I told our guys all week long as we prepared that the one thing we had to do was limit the big plays,” W-M coach Andrew Phillips said. “We knew going into it looking at it on paper, we’re two evenly matched teams. I’m sure when I go back and look at this one it’s the little plays that matter just as much as the big ones. It was a tough game for us. Our kids battled hard to the very end. That’s all we can ask of them.”

Things couldn’t have gotten off to a better start for the Royals. After forcing a punt on the opening drive by the Wildcats, W-M went 72 yards on 14 plays capped off by a 1-yard touchdown run by Albert Rundell. On the drive, the Royals converted two fourth downs including the score on 4th and goal.

Rundell using his legs would be a big part of the offense going forward for W-M for the rest of the game. With senior running back Wyatt McCabe shaken up on the first drive, Rundell was leaned on even more for W-M through the air and on the ground.

“They’re so just dynamic,” NL-S coach Chad Gustafson said. “Albert can not only pass the ball but he’s a great runner. It’s championship football now when you’re down to the final few teams.”

The Wildcats would answer the opening score of the game by the Royals. Not only did they hold W-M scoreless the rest of the half, but they also scored 19 unanswered points to take a rare lead into the locker room at the half.

“We really emphasized getting off to a faster start,” Gustafson said. “To have the lead at halftime was huge tonight.”

Like they have all season long, W-M battled back. The Royals went 71 yards on their opening drive of the second half as McCabe, who was playing hurt, scored on a two-yard run to get his team back within one score.

“Guys were banged up,” Phillips said. “ In AAA football, you have a lot of guys that play both ways. We’ve got guys out there who came off the field for less than 20 snaps. Their toughness showed. They’re going to be wounded warriors walking into school Monday but all of them better be really proud of what they’ve done.”

After the Royals closed the gap, NL-S came through time and time again with big plays in the second half to hold them at bay. Early in the fourth quarter, Brycen Christiensen hauled in a 17-yard touchdown catch from Blake Schultz on 3rd and 13 to put the Wildcats up 27-14.

Down two scores once again, W-M battled back. On a play in which Rundell refused to go down, he scored on a 25-yard run to bring his team back within one score again.

“He’s our catalyst,” Phillips said. “The guy who can step in when needed. They did a great job of stopping our run game early and Albert said give me the ball. That’s what you love to see. There were a couple of plays there at the end that I thought were broken plays and Albert runs for a first down or throws for a touchdown. That’s just a kid who doesn’t want to lose and is a fantastic leader.”

Coming off Rundell’s big play, the Wildcats once again delivered another big play in a big moment. Facing a 4th and 3, Gabe Rohman hauled in a 30-yard touchdown pass from Schultz once again putting the Royals down two scores.

“We knew we wanted and needed more points,” Gustafson said about the big play on fourth down. “They are an explosive team. We were trying to get to that point where we had a little bit of breathing room where they couldn’t come down and nail another field goal at the end to beat us.”

Rundell would refuse to let the Royals’ comeback end there. After scrambling for 16 yards on 4th and 15 to keep the drive and season alive, he connected with Gannon Lee on a 32-yard touchdown to close the gap to just five with just under two minutes to play.

“Heart of a lion,” Phillips said about Rundell. “He’s a guy who absolutely didn’t want to lose this game. He’s been a fantastic leader for us for four years and a guy we’re going to miss. He’s a guy who left it all out there on the field tonight. I know this one hurts him but he’s had a heck of a career for us and I couldn’t be more proud of him.”

The Royals were unable to recover the onside kick following the score and the Wildcats would pick up the first down needed to seal the win and secure a spot in the Class AAA state title.

“I know,” Gustafson said about what the difference was between this meeting and their earlier matchup. “(Hecksel) didn’t get to kick the last field goal. That kid can really kick the ball.”

The impressive run of teams in the East Central South district continues as the Wildcats will represent them in the Class AAA state title game. After Dassel-Cokato won it all last year, the teams in the district delivered again this year having two teams in the state semifinals for the third-straight season.

“You could say I’m biased but I think we play in the toughest district in the state,” Phillips said. “Last year, we sent three teams to the state tournament. This year we sent two. I told the guys coming in that somebody from our district is going to play for a state championship and that says a lot. We play tough football every week. There are not a lot of weeks where we get to take a game off. That allows us to be in games like this.”

Gustafson echos that statement.

“I don’t think there’s a tougher district,” he said. “It’s hard to survive week in and week out. It truly does bode well for you if you can survive it. “

With the loss for W-M, the Royals ended their incredible run and season with an overall record of 11-2 as the seniors on this year’s team took the program to a whole new level.

At 0-18, they all could have quit,” an emotional Phillips said. “I hope when it all settles here tonight, I hope they are all proud of themselves. They didn’t quit and we got to play here and that was a lot of fun. If we had a Mount Rushmore of Watertown-Mayer football we wouldn’t be able to put just four people on it. We’d have to put that whole class up there.”

Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter – @Kovar_HJSports 

CLASS AAA STATE FOOTBALL: Royals rally for comeback win over Cannon Falls

HASTINGS – Watertown-Mayer senior Albert Rundell loves to throw the ball. He likes it even more when his teammate and friend Wyatt McCabe is on the other end.

When the Watertown-Mayer football team needed it most, the dynamic duo for the Royals delivered in the biggest way possible. It was like running routes in the backyard and drawing up plays on your hand for the two as they connected on a 51-yard touchdown pass in the final two minutes of the game to put W-M up and give them a thrilling 34-30 win over Cannon Falls in the Class AAA state quarterfinals Thursday night.

“That’s pretty much what I told him,” Rundell said with a laugh. “I told him I wasn’t going to miss him on this one. I’ll get you the ball and you do the rest and he did just that.”

“To be honest, with those two guys, there’s times where we draw plays up on the sideline and say let’s try it,” W-M coach Andrew Phillips said. “They execute it and it works. It’s huge to have guys like that.”

The big play to put the Royals ahead was just one of many big plays for W-M throughout the game. After trailing 16-0 to open the game and 30-20 early in the fourth quarter, there was never any panic on the sideline for the Royals.

“The resiliency of these kids is unbelievable,” Phillips said. “To be down like that and battle back says a lot about who they are. It shows a lot about the leadership of our team. These seniors are the true leaders of our program and where we’re at. Without them, we wouldn’t be here.”

“We’ve been in that situation before,” McCabe added. “We play in a tough district all year with some of the best teams in the state. I think that’s prepared us for situations like this. We’re just able to keep battling and face whatever adversity there is.”

The Power T offense by the Bombers gave W-M fits early on. Cannon Falls scored on their first two possessions of the game, putting W-M in a 16-0 hole early on. Despite the tough start defensively, the Royals made adjustments throughout the game and settled in against the Bombers’ prominent rushing attack.

“When you’re getting double-teamed in the trenches and working hard and getting beat up play after play, it’s tough,” senior Ian Burau said. “It beats you up. We knew they were going to be a tough team. They’re very tough running the ball. We struggled at first but then started to figure it out and worked as a team.”

Down two scores, W-M got the offense going in the second quarter with the passing game going with the win. Rundell hit Gannon Lee in stride for a 49-yard touchdown for the Royals to get them on the scoreboard and give them some momentum.

Following the score, the Royals got a huge defensive stop. On 4th and 2 on their own 28-yard line, Cannon Falls rolled the dice and went for it. W-M came up with a huge stop to force a turnover on downs.

“We talked at halftime and they were all saying that they don’t even know who has the ball,” Phillips said. “None of us knew but we just had to tackle them all. They did a great job though and adjusted. It worked out for us. That’s a really tough offense to stop. I’m glad we don’t have to see that next week again.”

“They did a great job,” McCabe added about the defense. “We preached discipline. Everybody did their job and we figured it out that first quarter. When you’ve never played against it, you really don’t know how it’s going to be.”

The Royals would take advantage of the turnover on downs. Burau would score on a 1-yard touchdown run and Ashton Hecksel added the extra point to close the gap to just three with just over four minutes left in the second quarter.

Bureau wasn’t done making plays for the Royals. On the ensuing possession, Burau intercepted a screen pass and returned it all the way to the one-yard line to set up a touchdown run by Steven Duske to give W-M a 20-16 lead.

“I saw it was a pass and he looked my way so I dropped back and I was right there and caught it,” Bureau said about the play. “Last week I fumbled, so I was just holding it tight and kept moving.”

Cannon Falls would threaten before halftime but the Royals would come up with a big stop in the end zone as time expired to take a 20-16 lead into the break.

After forcing a three-and-out by the Bombers on the first drive of the second half, W-M had a chance to break things open. A fake put on 4th and 2 was called at the perfect time but the Royals couldn’t convert as the pass was dropped and Cannon Falls took over in W-M territory. The Bombers would capitalize on the mistake with a 17-yard touchdown run by Dylan Banks to put them up 22-20 with just under six minutes left in the third quarter.

Cannon Falls would keep things rolling. After an interception by Rundell, the Bombers would add on another score and the two-point conversion to make it 30-20 Cannon Falls with just over 11 minutes left to play. Despite being down two scores late, the Royals never panicked.

“We’ve seen it before,” Bureau said. “We’ve done it and knew we could fight back. It’s tough to come back and it’s hard to do mentally. That’s something we struggle with but we always seem to figure it out.”

“We’re never out of a game,” Rundell added. “We can put up points in a hurry and our defense can get big stops in big moments. We just had to step up in those moments.”

Rundell and the Royals proved just that by putting together one of their most impressive drives of the season to get back into the game. W-M converted 3rd and 6, 4th and 5, and 4th and 8 all in the same drive that was capped off by a 1-yard touchdown run by Rundell to make it a 30-27 game with six minutes to go.

“It has a lot to do with who they are,” Phillips said about the big drive. “They’re just competitors. They’re willing to do whatever it takes to win the game. Big players make big plays in big games. Those are the kind of things you need to happen to be playing where we are right now.”

Needing another stop, W-M got just that as they took over the ball on their own 49-yard line after forcing a Cannon Falls punt. It took just one play for the Royals to take the lead as Rundell and McCabe hooked up for the 51-yard touchdown to take the lead.

The wind was a big factor in the game for the Royals. All five of their touchdowns came going with the win including scoring 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to stun the Bombers and secure their spot in the Class AAA state semifinals.

“That’s been one of our strengths this year is the ability to throw the football,” Phillips said. “In the first and third quarters, we couldn’t do it. It made us a one-dimensional team. When we got to go with the win, we took advantage of it with a couple of big touchdown passes that really helped us out.”

A familiar foe awaits the Royals in the state semifinals. They’ll take on New London-Spicer, a team they played already once this season and needed a last-second field goal to win.

“I’m super excited,” McCabe said about the matchup “We had a heck of a game with them last time. I think we’ve improved a lot since then so it will be interesting to see how we stack up against them.”

“It should be a great matchup,” Rundell added. “I’m looking forward to it. I’m ready to play at US Bank Stadium.”

Kickoff is set for W-M and New London-Spicer for Saturday, Nov. 19 at US Bank Stadium at 4:30 p.m.

“I played there last year with Becker,” Bureau said. “It’s one of the greatest experiences you can have in high school football. There isn’t a group of boys I’d rather do it with than these guys right here. I love them. They are the best group you could ask for. It makes football so much more fun.”

“The positive thing about it is that someone from our district is going to play for a state championship whether that’s us or them,” Phillips added. “That says a lot about the district we play in. It’s nice to play a familiar opponent and someone you know, but at the same time, I like playing someone you don’t know. We’ll get after it this week and it will be a lot of fun.”

Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter – @Kovar_HJSports

FROM STRUGGLES TO STATE: A look inside the turnaround of the HLWW and W-M football programs

A lot can change over the course of four years.

It wasn’t very long ago that the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted and Watertown-Mayer football programs were in shambles. With numbers low in both programs, a possible co-op between the two schools was proposed as a realistic option to help stabilize both programs.

Flash forward to the 2022 football season and not only are the two schools still competing on their own, but they will also both be taking part in the state football tournament.

HLWW will be part of the Class AA state tournament after defeating Norwood Young America in the Section 4AA title game while Watertown-Mayer will be part of the Class AAA state football tournament after knocking off defending state champion Dassel-Cokato in the Section 2AAA title game.

“I’m really glad to see both programs excel right now,” first-year HLWW head coach Adam Birkholz said. “I think it was a good decision by both programs not to pair at the time. Even though I had no connection to either program four years ago, I knew what might happen.”

In a heated school board meeting four years ago, the proposal of a co-op between the two programs fell through and both were forced to figure things out on their own. With low numbers in the program and stuck in a tough district, often competing against bigger schools, success was hard to find for both programs in their first two seasons on their own following the talks of the co-op.

In the 2018 and 2019 seasons, HLWW and W-M combined to 1-36 between the two of them.
“Sometimes you need to weather the storm and take your down years,” Birkholz said about the struggles of both programs. “I knew there would be some good years coming up too if you stick with it. At all levels of football, you have cycles of good years and bad years.”

For W-M coach Andrew Phillips, he was hired heading into the 2018 season and immediately had his hands full. A possible co-op was put on his plate before he even coached a practice followed by back-to-back 0-9 seasons in his first two years. Even with the challenges, he faced early on, he knew eventually things were going to turn around.

“It’s funny to think about that,” Phillips said. “When I was hired as head coach, one of the very first things I had to do was sit down with HLWW’s athletic director and their football coach and talk about a co-op. We sat there and hashed out what things might look like and went through the school board meeting and voting and all that. Not having that co-op happen at that time, I remember thinking that this is going to be a long road ahead but I think we could do it. I thought we had the right people in the right places.”

He was right.

The seniors on this year’s HLWW and W-M football teams have shown what it takes to rebuild a program.
After the 13 seniors on this year’s roster for the Royals endured back-to-back winless seasons, they stuck with it and things began to change in the program. In 2022, W-M snapped a 29-game losing streak by beating Glencoe-Silver Lake on its home field.

A two-win season in 2020 doesn’t seem like much, but it was the start of the beginning of a new direction for the Royals. They followed that up with a seven-win season in 2021 which continued the momentum into the 2022 season which saw them reach the state tournament for the first time since 2002.

“These kids that are seniors on this year’s team were in eighth grade when I started,” Phillips said. “We went 0-9. As freshmen, they went 0-9. That very easily could have been a way out of football and our program for them. We have 18 seniors on our roster this year and 13 of them played all four years. For those kids to stand here after losing all those games, to deal with the COVID year, it’s something special.”

The turnaround has been similar at HLWW. The Lakers snapped an 18-game losing streak in 2019 with an upset win in the first round of the Section 4AA tournament.

The 2020 and 2021 were tough seasons once again as the Lakers won just one game in the two seasons, but this year, HLWW has turned things around in a big way, posting an impressive record of 9-2 heading into the Class AA state tournament.

“They were forced to play at a younger age due to lack of numbers,” Birkholz said. “They took their lumps. I told them at the beginning of the season that they’ve taken their lumps and now it’s their turn to give out those lumps and to excel. It’s their turn to experience success and that’s what they did. They proved me right that it was their turn and they worked hard these past four years to improve. They put the time in. You need to have seniors to have success and that’s what we have this year.”

The leadership and drive for the seniors is the common theme in both programs. While they all could have left the program when things were tough, they stuck it out and are now getting rewarded in the final seasons of their high school careers.

“These kids have been playing multiple years now,” Birkholz said. “They were forced to play at a younger age with the number of kids on the team. I think it was just a matter of them having a lot of experience and maturity as players. Myself and my staff came at the right time, but this is all on the players. The staff can’t take any snaps or do any of that. It’s really a reflection on their ability to play and compete.”

“I remember telling the kids that were seniors that year that it was going to be rough,” Phillips said. “We had low numbers. We were a small and under matched team. I remember telling those guys that in five years I want you to be able to say I was a part of what started this. They can now look back and say that they’re glad they played football for Watertown-Mayer and look where we are at now.”

While the product on the field has taken a big step forward for both the HLWW and W-M football teams this year, the community has dove in as well.

“You can tell that these communities were hungry to get behind a successful football team,” Birkholz said. “They’ve been so supportive. They want to do all these fun things for these kids to make memories. It’s very exciting to see and be a part of.”

“High school football in Watertown is an event now,” Phillips said. “Every Friday night it’s an event. It’s a thing that people are excited about and we’re excited about it. It’s a big culture change all around. From the team and staff to the fans, it’s just all exciting.”

HLWW and W-M will open state tournament play Thursday night in their respective classes. They’ll do so as their own programs just four years after both teams thought a co-op might be the best way to save their programs.

“When you sit back and look at it four years later, we’re playing in the state tournament and they’re playing in the state tournament,” Phillips said. “It’s kind of crazy to think that at one time we were both trying to save our programs and now we’re about to go play on the biggest stage in high school football.”

TOURNAMENT CENTRAL: Football and Volleyball playoff brackets released

The brackets and matchups for the 2022 fall sports season have been released. The postseason for football will get underway Tuesday, Oct. 25 with volleyball getting underway next week as well.

The following is a look at the seeding for sections for area teams in football and volleyball.

SECTION 2A FOOTBALL SEEDS

1. Lester Prairie

2. Mayer Lutheran

3. GFW

4. Alden-Conger

5. United South Central

6. JWP

7. NU Cathedral

8. Cleveland

FIRST ROUND MATCHUPS – Tuesday, Oct. 25

(8) Cleveland at (1) Lester Prairie

(5) USC at (4) Alden-Conger

(6) J-W-P at (3) G-F-W

(7) New Ulm Cathedral at (2) Mayer Lutheran

 

SECTION 4AA FOOTBALL SEEDS

1. Minneapolis North

2. St. Agnes

3. Concordia Academy

4. HLWW

5. Rush City

6. NYA

7. Maple Lake

FIRST ROUND MATCHUPS – Tuesday, Oct. 25

(7) Maple Lake at (2) St. Agnes

(6) NYA at (3) Concordia Academy

(5) Rush City at (4) HLWW

(1) Minneapolis North – BYE

 

SECTION 2AAA FOOTBALL SEEDS

1. Dassel-Cokato

2. Watertown-Mayer

3. Providence Academy

4. Rockford

5. Litchfield

6. Glencoe-Silver Lake

7. Holy Family

FIRST ROUND MATCHUPS  – Tuesday Oct. 25

(7) Holy Family at (2) W-M

(6) G-SL at (3) Providence Academy

(5) Litchfield at (4) Rockford

(1) Dassel-Cokato – BYE

 

SECTION 6AAAA FOOTBALL SEEDS

1. Mound Westonka

2. Princeton

3. Orono

4. Zimmerman

5. Delano

6. Big Lake

FIRST ROUND MATCHUPS  – Tuesday, Oct. 25

(6) Big Lake at (3) Orono

(5) Delano at (4) Zimmerman

(2) Princeton – BYE

(1) Mound Westonka – BYE

________________________________________________________________________________________

 

SECTION 2A NORTH VOLLEYBALL SEEDS

1. Mayer Lutheran

2. BOLD

3. New Ulm Cathedral

4. Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s

5. Sleepy Eye

6. BLHS

7. GFW

8. Lester Prairie

9. Nicolet

 

SECTION 5AA VOLLEYBALL SEEDS

1. Annandale

2. Watertown-Mayer

3. HLWW

4. Kimball

5. Rockford

6. Providence Academy

7. Maple Lake

8. Blake

9. Breck

10. Spectrum

11. Maranatha

12. Columbia Heights

13. Patrick Henry

14. Dassel-Cokato

15. Brooklyn Center

16. Cristo Rey

 

SECTION 6AAA VOLLEYBALL SEEDS

1. New Prague

2. Benilde-St. Margaret’s

3. Holy Angels

4. Delano

5. Jordan

6. Mound Westonka

7. Orono

8. Bloomington Kennedy

FIRST ROUND MATCHUPS – Wednesday, Oct. 26

(8) Bloomington Kennedy at (1) New Prague

(7) Orono at (2) Benilde-St. Margaret’s

(6) Mound Westonka at (3) Holy Angels

(5) Jordan at (4) Delano

Follow Sports Editor Kip Kovar on Twitter to stay updated throughout the postseason for coverage of your favorite teams. – @Kovar_HJSports 

 

PREP FOOTBALL: Royals run past Holy Family to move to 6-1

VICTORIA – Coming off a tough and physical battle in their last game, the Watertown-Mayer football team wanted no part in a trap game against the Holy Family Fire. From the opening drive, the Royals had things firing on all cylinders as they cruised to a 49-12 win over the Fire Friday night.

“I told them all week that these are the kind of games where teams that are supposed to win go and win right away,” W-M coach Andrew Phillips said. “If we don’t go out there and take care of business, it could go a way we wouldn’t want it to go. Tonight, we finally came out and took care of business right away. We kept our foot on the gas pedal as long as we needed to tonight which was nice to see.”

W-M got the run game going early and often in the win. Senior Wyatt McCabe rushed for more than 100 yards and scored five touchdowns on the night as the Royals poured things on after taking an early lead.

“It’s huge for us,” Phillips said about getting the run game going. “It’s a big confidence builder. We didn’t have to worry about what we were going to run on third and long because of that. The ground game has been great for us. Our guys up front have been doing a great job all season long taking care of business and hopefully they can keep doing that going forward.”

Up 14-0 at the end of the first quarter, W-M pulled away for good in the second quarter. The Royals scored 28 points in the span of three minutes of game time to put Holy Family in a deficit they were unable to come back from. Two of the four scores for the Royals came off just one play after creating a turnover deep in Holy Family territory.

With the win, W-M improved to 6-1 on the season with one final game left in the regular season. After taking a big step forward last year in which the Royals won seven games, that was enough to satisfy them. They’re looking for even more this year and are off to a great start in order to make that happen as they are ranked No. 8 in the latest Class AAA poll.

“We had a great year last season,” Phillips said. “These guys are hungry though. They came out all summer long doing the workouts and getting ready for this. They want to play as long as they can.”

W-M closes out the regular season Wednesday night when they host Glencoe-Silver Lake. The Royals will not only be looking to finish off the regular season on a high note but also get ready for what they hope will be a deep postseason run.

“The first thing we need to do is continue to get healthy,” Phillips said. “In AAA football, you don’t have a lot of guys. If a guy goes down, it can create a lot of havoc. That’s one of our biggest things is to get healthy. The other thing is to just continue doing what we’re doing. It’s been our philosophy all year. Just being really good at what we do and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

 

PREP FOOTBALL: Bulldogs shutout Mayer Lutheran in signature win

LESTER PRAIRIE – A win in October is always a big deal. A win over your rival is even better.

The matchup with Mayer Lutheran has been circled on the calendar for the Lester Prairie football team for a while. It was everything they hoped for.

“It’s been marked on the calendar since last year when we played them,” senior Tanner Scheevel said with a smile. “We’ve all been excited about it. It was a big win for us and it was a lot of fun. It’s been a rivalry for a while. I haven’t been able to play against them the last few years so it felt really great to come out and get a win.”

Taking on each other in a matchup for the No. 1 seed in the Section 2A tournament, it was the Bulldogs who dominated the trenches on their way to an impressive 16-0 win over the Crusaders Thursday night.

“I thought we played great,” Lester Prairie coach Joe Scoblic said. “We shot ourselves in the foot twice in the first half on drives that we could have scored on. We talked a lot about that at halftime. In the second half, we wanted to get them in a grind and I think we did that.”

The Bulldogs came out and issued a statement early on. Lester Prairie scored on a seven-minute drive to open the game to take an 8-0 lead. Following the score, Jace Cacka set the tone defensively for the Bulldogs of what was to come as he and his team forced a three-and-out with a pair of big hits.

“He was just a beast,” Scoblic said about Cacka. “That little wrestler is a stud, there’s no doubt about that. I thought he really set the tone right away on two of the first three plays on defense. He set the tone and the defense just rallied after that.”

As good as the Bulldogs played in the opening half, they led by just eight. With Mayer Lutheran getting the ball first to start the second half, Scoblic knew how important the first few minutes of the second half would be for the rest of the game.

“I could tell they were fired up,” Scoblic said about Mayer Lutheran. “We thought we had to stop that first drive and if we stopped it we could get this game under control and it seems like that’s what we did.”

The Bulldogs did just that, forcing another three and out defensively, Lester Prairie went for the dagger on their first drive of the second half. Logan Lambrecht capped off a methodical drive by the Bulldogs with a five-yard touchdown run to put them up two scores and take all the momentum.

“It feels really good,” Cacka said about the win. “They’ve beaten us the last couple of years pretty badly so it feels good to get one back. We knew it was going to be a tough game and we had to just after it.”

Lester Prairie’s line on both sides of the ball was a big reason for the win. While they aren’t the biggest or strongest guys in the world, they get the job done time and time again as the Bulldogs moved to 7-0 on the season with the win.

“They just don’t quit,” Scoblic said about the line. “They just feed off each other and get after it. Are they perfect? No, but they’re pretty darn good.”

“I’m so proud of those guys,” Scheevel said. “They’ve been putting the work in since last year. We’ve been in the weight room all season and grinding. I couldn’t ask for a better line. They’ve been putting in all the work and it’s paying off.”

Mayer Lutheran was held to just 129 yards of offense in the loss as they struggled to get anything going. Knowing it would be a tough matchup coming in, the Crusaders took one on the chin in their first of what they hope will be two matchups with the Bulldogs this season.

“They’re just mature and a really good team,” Mayer Lutheran coach Dean Aurich said. “I like their whole athleticism on the team. They looked good on video and they looked even better tonight.”

The Crusaders might be the defending Class A state champions but they know there will be some growing pains this year. With several new players stepping into bigger roles, Mayer Lutheran needed a big game like this to see exactly where they are at and what they need to work on going forward.

“To beat these guys, it’s going to take a lot of work. They’re better than us right now. We knew coming in they would kind of be the favorite. They really are. They’re well-coached and have a really good program. When you’re growing, you just have to keep plugging. There are little things we can do better. If we play well and don’t get beat up, we can still make a run but it’s going to take a lot of work.”

For Lester Prairie, it’s been an impressive run for them this season. While the perfect record through seven games may come as a surprise to some, it doesn’t to them.

“They really like each other which is a big plus,” Scoblic said. “We started all of this in June when we started practices. We talked about this season and what a special year it could be. “

“This summer, we did a lot of team bonding stuff,” Scheevel added. “We would go to the beach a lot after practice. We just did a lot of team bonding stuff. It got us all together and we just kind of formed a brotherhood. That’s when we became a family and it just pushes everyone to work a little harder each day.”

“It’s like a family,” Cacka added. “Everybody helps each other out. Everybody cheers each other on. It’s a good team we have.”