By BRAD SALMEN
ST. BONIFACIUS – For the first time in 46 years, the DC Charger football team is going to the state tournament.
The Chargers, who went 5-3 during the regular season and were the #3 seed in the Section 2AAA playoffs, punched their ticket to state with a 26-13 victory over #4 seed Providence Academy in the Section Championship game Friday at Crown College.
“The win was an exciting one for our program. I was really proud of our team and how well they were able to focus, be disciplined, and perform when it counted,” said DC head coach Ryan Weinandt.
Weinandt also credited the incredible fan support for not just this game, but the entire season. In the section final, the Chargers fans appeared to outnumber the Lions fans by at least a 3-1 count.
“We had an outstanding showing of fan support at the game,” Weinandt said. “We are very thankful for the support, and we’re proud of our players, school, cheerleaders, and community. We are very grateful.”
The Chargers will now face the Section 4AAA champion, Cannon Falls (9-1), in the Class AAA state quarterfinals (see related story).
The game will be played at Burnsville High School Saturday. Game time is 12 p.m.
Keys to the game: Winning at all three facets
After all was said and done, the game hinged on just a handful of game-changing plays.
“It was a game of big plays. Our defense, special teams, and offense all made big plays,” said Weinandt. “We didn’t play perfect, but the mistakes we made were minimal.”
Perhaps the two biggest turning points came from the usually-unsung special teams.
The first came early in the second quarter. With DC backed up near their own end zone, a Sanders Asplin punt bounced off the Lions’ punt returner, and was recovered by the Chargers.
That play set up DC’s second touchdown of the game one play later, as quarterback Asplin hit Joel Selseth for a 66-yard connection to go up 14-0.
The second came on the second-half opening kickoff.
Asplin’s kickoff was high and short, and the Lions appeared to have confusion about who would field the kick.
When nobody did, a streaking Grayson Londerville dove on the ball to give possession to the Chargers.
“That was maybe the biggest play of the game,” said Weinandt, as instead of having to play defense to start the half, the Chargers were able to take advantage of a short field on offense, scoring to go up 20-7.
Offensively, three of the Chargers’ four scores were on plays of 50 yards or more.
• Sanders Asplin scored the first touchdown of the game just a minute in, on a 50-yard run.
• After Providence Academy’s muffed punt, Asplin found Selseth on a deep post for a 6-yard score.
• Late in the fourth quarter, Asplin had his second big touchdown run of the game, a 72-yard, untouched scamper to put the game away.
DC also got a long, 69-yard run in the first quarter from Eli Gillman that resulted in a missed field goal.
“[Providence Academy] played some pretty aggressive defense as far as putting a lot of guys in the box, so we had some short gains but then busted out some really big plays,” said Weinandt. “Our offense kept grinding, and put up enough points to win. [Offensive lineman] Logan Kelly went down early, and Brandon Jurek came in and did an outstanding job. Our OL didn’t really skip a beat.”
Defensively, the Chargers bent but did not break throughout most of the game.
They stopped Providence Academy on two 4th downs deep in DC territory, and came up with some big interceptions as well.
Collin Asplin had the first big turnover, intercepting a deep pass in the first quarter to stop a Lions drive.
With the Lions trailing 20-7, and driving deep into Charger territory midway through the fourth quarter, Gillman had the second, intercepting a pass in the end zone that set up Asplin’s final touchdown.
“Our guys really made Providence Academy work to put points on the board. We didn’t give up many big plays,” said Weinandt. “They had several drives where they chunked down the field, but our D tightened up in the red zone.”
Overall, said Weinandt, it was a great team effort against a very good Providence Academy team.
“It is a win that our entire roster helped us prepare for, and should feel proud of,” he said.
Check out Friday’s Enterprise Dispatch for a full recap.