10/18/2012 9:50:00 AM Chisago Lakes edged by state-power SLP
The Chisago Lakes defense stood tall against a potent Spring Lake Park offense.
By JEFF NORTON
In high school football, there’s really no such thing as a moral victory. But sometimes a team can show everyone that it belongs in the conversation about the best teams in the state, and the Wildcats did just that last in their 20-13 loss at Spring Lake Park last Friday night, October 12. Spring Lake Park had rolled over all six of its previous opponents this season, and the Wildcats gave them by far their best challenge this year. The Panthers scored with less than 1:44 left in the game to break a 13-13 tie and go ahead 20-13. The Wildcat offense engineered a well-executed two-minute drill and put themselves in position to score the tying touchdown. But they ended up just a few yards short of the end zone on the last play of the game. The Wildcats set up for the final drive with no timeouts remaining after they recovered a pooch kick by the Panthers at the Wildcat 38 yard line. On second down, quarterback Mitch Berg hit Eric Brown with a pass to the right. Brown went 12 yards for the first down and got out of bounds to stop the clock with 1:10 left in the game. On the next play, Brown ran for three yards and the clock kept running. An incomplete pass stopped the clock with 48.5 seconds remaining.
On third down, Berg dropped back and fired the ball over the middle. Miles Turk made a diving catch at the 35 yard line for a first down. The Wildcats quickly lined up and Berg spiked the ball with 35.7 seconds left. A pitch to Josh Parks on second down gained just one yard, but Parks got out of bounds to stop the clock with 31.7 seconds remaining. Berg again connected with Turk on the next play, with Turk catching the ball near the right sideline and stepping out of bounds at the 21 to stop the clock with 25.4 seconds left. After an incomplete pass on first down, Berg threw over the middle and – you guessed it – Turk made another diving catch to give the Wildcats a first down at the ten. Berg spiked the ball to stop the clock with 14.9 seconds left. With all his receivers covered on second down, Berg threw the ball away. On third down, Berg again saw Turk open over the middle just across the goal line and fired a bullet in Turk’s direction. The ball was behind Turk. Turk spun his body toward the ball as he dove to try to make the catch. He reached out and got his right hand on the ball.
The ball hung there for a split second, but was jarred loose when Turk’s body hit the ground and fell incomplete. The Wildcats had one last shot at a touchdown on fourth down with 5.0 seconds remaining. Berg dropped back and was forced to the right. He hit Brown at the ten. Brown started towards the end zone, but was swarmed under by Panther defenders at the five as the gun went off to end the game. The Wildcats started at their own 33 after the game’s opening kickoff and marched quickly down the field. Runs of 10 and 11 yards by Parks – one right, one left – helped to move the ball to the Panther 46. Two plays later, Brown took a pitch left and cut upfield for ten yards to give the Wildcats a first down at the 33. A couple of short gains sandwiched around a nine yard keeper by Berg put the Wildcats a second and six from the 15. Berg pitched the ball left to Brown and, before the Panthers knew what hit them, the speedy Brown turned the corner and blew past all of them, going into the end zone standing up.
The Wildcats missed the extra point and led 6-0. After the teams exchanged three-and-outs, the Panthers took over at the Wildcat 36 yard line. On second down from the 33, Panther Gabe Dahl ran through a huge hole and went all the way to the end zone for a touchdown. The extra point was good, and the Panthers led 7-6 with 4:25 left in the first quarter. The Wildcats put together a ten play drive, highlighted by a 16 yard run by Brown. Facing fourth and 12 from the Panther 29, the Wildcats decided to go for it. But Berg’s pass to Brown lost two yards and the Panthers took over at the Wildcat 31. The Panthers drove down the field and, seven plays later, faced fourth and goal at the Wildcat half yard line. Running back Jared Evans took the handoff and tried to leap over the pile of players up the middle. The ball barely broke the plane of the goal line for a touchdown before Evans was decisively shoved back by the Wildcats. The Panthers missed the extra point and led 13-6 with 8:37 left in the second quarter. The Wildcat defense forced the Panthers into a three-and-out on the opening drive of the second half, and after the punt the Wildcats took over at their own 31 yard line. On first down, Brown took a handoff left, burst through the line and was off to the races, getting tackled at the Panther 32 yard line after a 37 yard gain. On fourth and 15 from the 37, Berg threw over the middle to Turk. Turk was hit as he caught the ball 14 yards downfield, but he leaned forward just enough to get the first down and keep the drive alive.
On third down from the 21, Brown took a handoff left and again went around the Panther defense and into the end zone standing up for a touchdown. Hunter Lindstrom nailed the extra point and the game was tied 13-13. On the next drive, the Panthers went for it on fourth and 13 from the Wildcat 19. The Wildcat defense gang tackled the ball carrier after an eight yard gain and the Wildcats took over on downs. After the Wildcat drive stalled at their own 31 yard line, Berg punted. The Panther return man signaled for a fair catch at the Panther 45 yard line. He dropped the ball and Wildcat Adam Sapp recovered at the 42. But the Wildcats fumbled it right back to the Panthers at the Panther 29 yard line just two plays later. The Wildcat defense came up big again. On fourth and one from the Wildcat 23 yard line, the Panthers tried to go up the middle. But they ran into a big obstacle – Dan Sargeant – with a whole host of Wildcats helping him. The officials measured and the Panthers ended up a foot short of the first down, turning the ball over to the Wildcats. On the next play, Berg rolled left and threw to Turk about ten yards downfield. Turk was hit just after the ball got there and the ball popped loose, so it appeared to be an incompletion. But the Panthers pounced on it at the 20 and the referees ruled it had been a completed pass. The Wildcat defense was faced with another big challenge and again rose to the occasion. After gaining three yards on three plays, the Panthers faced fourth and seven at the Wildcat 17 yard line.
They pitched the ball right to Ejodamen Ejiya. Ejiya tried to cut upfield but ran into linebacker Joe Davis, who slammed Ejiya to the ground for yet another fourth down stop deep in their own territory by the Wildcats. After the Wildcats went three and out, Berg hit a nice punt that rolled dead at the Panther 40 yard line with 5:02 left in the game. A couple of big runs moved the ball down to the Wildcat 16 yard line. On fourth and one from the 7, the Panthers eschewed a field goal attempt and went for it. This time, they converted and had first and goal from the 5. The Wildcat defense stopped them just short of the end zone on first down and stuffed them again on second down.
A five yard illegal motion penalty moved the ball back to the 6. They pitched right to Ejiya, and he beat the Wildcats to the front right corner of the end zone for a touchdown with 1:44 left in the game. The extra point was good, and the Panthers led 20-13, setting the stage for the exciting Wildcat drive that fell just short of the end zone on the last play of the game. Wildcat head coach Bill Weiss said “We felt going in that we matched up well with Spring Lake Park. We were disappointed in the outcome of the game. We played well for the most part. We continue to prove as the season goes on that we’re still a work in progress but we’re not where we want to be yet. It came down to the turnovers in this one. Those are going to be difference makers in any football game. We had a great opportunity on the mishandled punt recovered by Adam Sapp, and then we turned the ball over two plays later. In a game like this one, you have to protect the football and you have to capitalize on the turnovers committed by the other team. Unfortunately, we didn’t do either in this one.” Weiss talked about the game’s final drive.
He said “The two minute offense is something we worked on in practice this past week. We had used our timeouts on defense to preserve as much time as possible whether or not the Panthers scored to take the lead. We use a combination of our passing game and outside running plays needed to get out of bounds to stop the clock. Mitch Berg did a real nice job leading the charge and got in position to spike the ball when we needed to do it a couple of times. If you don’t work on that in practice, it’s easy to end up with an illegal procedure call and the clock still running. I was Impressed with our guys for getting down there and getting two shots from the ten at the end. I’m disappointed that we didn’t make it, but we were close enough to get a couple of good chances. Weiss praised his defense for coming up big to keep the Wildcats in the game. He said “We had a couple of red zone stops that were huge. Sometimes in the course of a game when the offense isn’t converting you need the defense to really step up. There are also games where the offense needs to control the ball to help out the defense. In this one, our linebacker corps of Josh Dutcher, Dan Sargeant and Joe Davis was very sound. Bradee Thompson and Matt Hasselquist had another great game. And on the inside of the line, Avery Peterson, Dan Hobson and Schmidt battled very hard the whole game. You don’t often notice those inside guys a lot and they stuffed a lot of things up the middle in this one. Section Preview The Section 7AAAAA playoff matchups were not determined until this morning (too late for publication in this week’s paper), after the results of last night’s games were counted in the QRF rankings. All of the Class AAAAA sections in the state now use QRF rankings to determine seeding for the section playoffs. You can see the rankings, standings and game scores at www.minnesota-scores.net.
Three of the six teams in Section 7AAAAA – Cambridge-Isanti, the Wildcats and Bemidji – have a chance at the number one seed. The top two teams receive a bye in next Tuesday’s playoff quarterfinals, while the number three seed will host the sixth seed that night. Cambridge-Isanti (6-1 overall, QRF #11) had a tough matchup scheduled at Rogers (6-1) last night. The Wildcats (5-2, QRF #18) also had a tough opponent hosting Irondale (5-2) last night. And Bemidji (5-2, QRF #24) hosted 5-2 Sartell-St. Stephen. There are all kinds of seeding possibilities depending on which of the three teams won and lost last night. But it boils down to this – if the Wildcats won their game last night, they are almost certain to get at least the number two seed and a first round bye. And even if they lost, a loss by Bemidji would likely give the Wildcats a first round bye. Check out chisagocountypress.com for the time and place of the Wildcats’ next game.