SHAKOPEE - Goodhue started to lose its grip on a trip to US Bank Stadium.
After taking a 7-0 lead against Mayer Lutheran in the Class A state quarterfinals, the ball started slipping out of the Wildcats’ grasp. For six turnovers.
Then, the Crusaders capitalized and scored 31 straight points.
And even as they made it a two-possession game in the fourth quarter, Goodhue was just too far out of reach for a trip to the state semifinals as the Wildcats’ season came to an end with a 31-21 loss.
“That first half, we killed ourselves a lot. We had a lot of mental mistakes and we blamed ourselves for that,” Goodhue senior defensive end/tight end Ryan Schoenfelder said. “As long as we played a clean second half, I thought we had a chance to make a run.”
Both teams’ defenses controlled the game in the first quarter, with the Crusaders recovering a Mason Huemann fumble at the Wildcats’ 42-yard-line and Goodhue forcing Mayer Lutheran into four straight punts.
Going into their fourth drive of the game, Goodhue had just 21 yards of offense. And then, on one play, Schoenfelder raised that total exponentially by catching a Jack Gadient pass, breaking a tackle and out-running the Crusaders’ defense for a 93-yard score and a 7-0 lead.
“Just a quick hitch. We kind of fought for it and I was able to get free and break to the sideline,” Schoenfelder said.
But that was a sign of things to come in the game: Schoenfelder/Gadient broke the occasional big play, but Goodhue’s run game was a non-factor. Gadient (14 of 31, 225 yards) found Schoenfelder five times for 156 yards and three touchdowns while the run game accounted for just 63 yards, with the biggest being 14 yards.
“They had a strong five-man front. That line is big and good,” Schoenfelder said. “They also brought some stunts and pressure.”
After two fumbles by Goodhue, one on a failed hook-and-lateral and another by Huemann, Mayer Lutheran finally struck with a 20-yard touchdown catch from Branden Carlson from Baden Noennig. Then after Goodhue was forced into a 3-and-out, the Crusaders took the lead on another 20-yard touchdown pass from Noennig, this time to Kenson Boelke.
Mayer Lutheran’s defense made it a 21-7 game when Boelke picked off a bubble screen attempt and raced 33 yards for a score with 28 seconds remaining before halftime.
“We didn’t help ourselves there with penalties (10 for 77 yards) and turnovers,” said Goodhue head coach Tony Poncelet.
After four turnovers and a 21-point swing, it could be a tough sell. But Poncelet made sure his team knew there was plenty of time left to climb out of the 14-point hole.
“It’s never over. In high-school sports, it’s never over,” Poncelet said.
“Mr. Poncelet just got us jacked up at halftime,” said linebacker Sven Otterness, who finished with seven total tackles and a sack. “We wanted to play like we always play: Hard-hitting. We wanted to keep on going. We needed to readjust and make our blocks, stuff like that.”
Opening the second half with the ball, Mayer Lutheran got a boost when Cole Cummings finished off a 10-play, 71-yard drive with a 30-yard field goal. Then with 3:47 left in the third, the Crusaders pulled ahead 31-7 on a 5-yard run from Matt Menth.
“We were similarly matched up. They just got us sometimes on some passes,” Otterness said. “Our D-line was getting in there but they got good passes out.”
Goodhue finally got back on the board at 1:32 of the third when Gadient and Schoenfelder hooked up for a 10-yard touchdown. Then, in the opening drive of the fourth, the Crusaders bit on a play-action pass that saw a wide-open Schoenfelder walk into the end zone with a 30-yard touchdown reception.
“We just took it one play at a time. Win every play we can and go from there,” Schoenfelder said. “That put us in a good position to win.”
Although Mayer Lutheran couldn’t find the end zone again, their defense hunkered down and snuffed out the Wildcats’ comeback try. First, the Crusaders ended a Goodhue drive at midfield when a jump-ball on fourth-and-nine was knocked down. Then as the Wildcats tried to move the ball in the air, Noennig had an interception in Goodhue territory, followed by a pick at midfield by Mitchell Thiesfeld with 1:26 left to play that put the game away for good.
Mayer Lutheran (11-1) will head to the state semifinals against Minneota next Saturday while Goodhue ends the 2017 season at 11-1.
“I’m proud of these guys. They battled back and left it all out there,” Poncelet said. “That’s all you can ask of any team you coach.”
Mayer Lutheran 31, Goodhue 21
ML 0 21 10 0-31
G 7 0 7 7-21
G-Ryan Schoenfelder 93 pass from Jack Gadient (Mariano Bigalk kick), 3:16.
ML-Branden Carlson 20 pass from Baden Noennig (Cole Cummings kick), 9:40.
ML-Kenson Boelke 20 pass from Noennig (Cummings kick), 2:54.
ML-Boelke 33 interception return (Cummings kick), 0:28.
ML-Cummings 30 field goal, 8:45.
ML-Matt Menth 5 run (Cummings kick), 3:47.
G-Schoenfelder 10 pass from Gadient (Bigalk kick), 1:32.
G-Schoenfelder 30 pass from Gadient (Bigalk kick), 9:19.
Pass (comp-att-yards-int): ML-Noennig 13-32-188-1; G-Gadient 14-31-225-3.
Rush (att-yards): ML-Menth 18-48, Carlson 14-29; G-Mason Huemann 16-49, Carter Danielson 4-29.
Rec (rec-yards): ML-Carlson 5-79, Boelke 5-68, Brock Hoese 2-37, Mitchell Thiesfeld 1-4; G-Schoenfelder 5-156, Bigalk 3-28, Sam Opsahl 3-21, Casey Ryan 2-8, Carter Danielson 1-12.
Tackles: ML-N/A; G-Huemann 15, Kaleb O'Reilly 12, Ryan 11.
Passing yards: ML-188; G-225.
Rushing yards: ML-49; G-63
Total yards: ML-237; G-288
First downs: ML-17; G-11.
Third-down conversions: ML- 6-15; G- 2-10.
Red zone conversions: ML- 4-4; G- 1-1.
Penalties: ML- 6-55; G- 10-77
Turnovers: ML-1; G-6.