CANNON FALLS - In order to help an ailing offense, Chase Reber took some steps back.
When running back Logan Hofstedt suffered a separated shoulder and a labrum tear against Zumbrota-Mazeppa in Week 5, Reber, Cannon Falls' quarterback up to that point, was asked to fill in for Hofstedt in hopes of solidifying the Bombers' T-formation attack.
So, instead of lining up behind center, Reber lined up behind the quarterback and let his legs do the work.
"I just did what the team needed," Reber said. "We were short on running backs. I'm just finding the hole and playing hard football."
Said Cannon Falls head coach Dan Meyers, "We talk to our guys all the time about being unselfish and that was a transition we had to make when Logan got hurt. Chase had to go in at running back and Brodie (Hansen) came in at quarterback. Guys have done a great job of not worrying about themselves and doing what the team needs them to do. Chase is a playmaker and that's why we moved him back there."
And in the Section 4AAA quarterfinals, Reber's transition paid off with a playoff win as the senior ran for 129 yards and three touchdowns on 16 carries in third-seeded Cannon Falls' 42-20 victory over sixth-seeded Lake City Tuesday at John Burch Park.
"We came out and got on top of them right away and made some big plays in the first half," Meyers said. "We knew Lake City was a good team even though their record wasn't good. ... We knew they had a lot of good players so we were happy we came out firing on all cylinders."
It was far from a solo effort on the ground as the Bombers finished with a 331-114 edge in rushing yards. Gage Hildebrandt had 92 yards on the ground, followed by 61 from Jovan Ripley.
"Having three athletes back there in the three-back set, the guys have done a great job with that," Meyers said. "The line blocking was good tonight, too."
It was actually a defensive play that sparked a 20-point Cannon Falls run to open Tuesday's game. Facing a 4th-and-10 in Bomber territory, Lake City's Riley Borgschatz dropped back to pass and was spun around by a blitzing Ripley. Trying to make a play, Borgschatz threw into the hands of Cannon Falls' Jack Dommeyer, who raced 72 yards down the field for a touchdown. It was the first of two interceptions for Dommeyer on the day.
"That was a huge spark," Reber said.
"He's gotten three interceptions this year as a defensive end, and he's only a sophomore so he's going to be a good player for us for a long time," Meyers said.
From that point, the Bombers' ground game took control as Reber punched in a 1-yard touchdown late in the first quarter, followed by a 65-yard scamper at the 10-minute mark of the second to make it a 20-0 game.
"The O-line did a great job making holes, that's for sure," Reber said. "When we have good effort, we can always get a good hole and the line did that tonight."
Lake City thought it grabbed some momentum with 59 seconds left in the second when Aidan Creeley ran in a 4-yard touchdown. But, on the ensuing kickoff, Ripley sprinted 87 yards through the Tigers' tacklers to make it a 26-7 Cannon Falls lead at halftime.
After gaining just 15 yards in the first half, Lake City's top playmaker, running back Parker Schurhammer, finally crossed the goal line at 9:51 of the third quarter with a 6-yard run. He added another score with a 35-yard run with 9:10 to play.
The two touchdowns were the highlights in an otherwise tough night for Schurhammer, who was held to 83 yards on 17 carries. He also had three catches for 31 yards.
"They did a nice job of taking our inside run game away," said Lake City head coach Trevor Narum. "The last three or four games, that's been the MO of teams to stuff the A- and B-gaps to take Parker away. At the same time, they out-physicaled us."
"We came out flat, it's as simple as that," Narum added. "As well as we played (in Week 8) against Kasson, with the energy and enthusiasm we played with, we didn't bring that tonight and that's the most disappointing part. As the head coach, I have to take some responsibility for that as well."
And, anytime the Tigers did score, the Bombers would respond in kind on their next drive. With 4:54 left in the third, Reber scored for the third time, capping off a 10-play, 65-yard drive with a 2-yard rushing touchdown. And with 5:38 to play, Hildebrandt reached the end zone on a 1-yard rush.
With the loss, Lake City ends the year at 0-9.
"We only had six seniors but this was really a hard-nosed, blue-collar type of group of seniors," Narum said. "We just couldn't get over that proverbial hump this year."
With Tuesday's victory, the Bombers (3-6) will travel to Golden Valley on Saturday to face second-seeded Breck (5-3). Winners of two straight, the Mustangs had a first-round bye.
"I do know they have a good quarterback (David Roddy), who's about 6-(foot)-4, 240 (pounds) and is getting D-I interest. ... And they run a spread offense so they're going to try and get their kids out in space," Meyers said. "Luckily, Caledonia is as good a spread offense as anybody so we got a lot of reps against that and those reps are valuable on a short week."