MINNEAPOLIS – Ty Hoese was in the stands as a spectator the last time the Mayer Lutheran football team played inside US Bank Stadium. This time he was the starting quarterback on the field.
Along with 15 other seniors, Hoese and the Crusaders moved another step closer to their ultimate goal as they came out on fire in a convincing 41-6 win over New York Mills in the Class A State Semifinals Saturday afternoon to reach the Prep Bowl for the first time in school history.
“When we were little we always watched those guys,” Hoese said. “We always wanted to do what they did, but we always wanted to go farther and go all the way. We all were in the stands. You watch and think that someday I got to get there. It’s awesome.”
Hoese delivered for the Crusaders in a big way, turning in one of the best performances of the season. He completed 9-of-16 passes for 221 yards and five touchdowns, a performance head coach Dean Aurich wasn’t surprised with after his week of practice.
“We had a practice this week and I’ve never seen a team connect like that,” Aurich said. “The dimes he threw and the passes he threw, we were on. Today was just as good. He was laying them out there.”
After Mayer Lutheran struck first on a 33-yard connection through the air from Hoese to Teigan Martin, it was the special teams who delivered. After forcing another three and out, Martin returned a blocked punt 40 yards for another to score to give Mayer Lutheran a 14-0 lead in the span of fewer than two minutes.
“It’s kind of like our season,” Aurich said about the fast start. “We had a lot of challenges but these kids have fought through them and good things happen. The passes that these two guys (Hoese and Martin) got going right away really put them on their heels. That set the tempo of the game.”
After Hoese and Martin connected for the first score of the game, Hoese got his other weapons involved. A pair of touchdown passes to Elijah Jopp put Mayer Lutheran up 28-0, putting New York Mills in an unfamiliar position. On Hoese’s first four pass attempts, he completed four of them for 146 yards and three touchdowns.
“They like to pay a lot of attention to him (Martin),” Hoese said. “If they don’t pay attention to him, we get it to him. Then they double-team him later on and we can throw it deep. We have playmakers all over the field. They have to pick and choose who they want to stop. That really helps us”
After jumping out to a commanding lead early, the Eagles battled back. After a pair of turnovers for Mayer Lutheran, New York Mills got on the board thanks to a nice catch on 4th and long. Mayer Lutheran would settle down in the second half, holding New York Mills in check the rest of the way.
“The second quarter, the kids were kind of down,” Aurich said. “Inside the locker room, I was getting kind of worried because we did start so fast and had so many good things happen. We took a little dive after that. We talked about that and luckily these guys came out and played better in the second half.”
A team built to run the ball, Mayer Lutheran held the Eagle’s ground game in check. The Crusaders held the Eagles to just 176 yards of total offense in the win.
“We read some articles about how New York Mills has a running game that’s really tough,” Aurich said. “Our defense kind of took that personally and said let’s stop it. They did a good job of that.”
The win for Mayer Lutheran sends them to the Prep Bowl for the first time in school history. They’ll take on Class A powerhouse Minneota in the state championship game Friday.
“These guys have been dreaming of this a long time,” Aurich said. “They’ve been good for a long time. It’s been something we’ve been looking forward to. That’s going to be two good teams fighting it out. We got to get our running attack to be steady enough to make our play-action work. They know we throw the ball pretty well. They were watching this. It would be nice to get all three phases of the game going but we’ve got to stay steady. We haven’t had a grinder yet. I think it will be next week.”
“We always talked when we were kids saying that we’re going to win it all when we get there,” Hoese added. “Now we have the chance Friday.”