Hutchinson continues to rule football roost
BY DAVE PEDERSEN
Delano can take some solace and pride in knowing it may be able to say the only two football defeats this season came against the state champion.
In one sense the statement is already a reality since defending State Class 4A champion Hutchinson overpowered Delano 35-9 in the state tourney semifinals Thursday in the Metrodome to make it 25 straight wins.
The title defense for Hutchinson is set for 4 p.m. Friday, Nov. 29 against Holy Angels Academy of Richfield in the Metrodome. Delano’s only other loss this season was to Hutchinson in Wright County Conference play.
“We felt we met the challenge of winning the section and getting to the Metrodome,” notes coach Merrill Pavlovich, who concluded his 38th season as head coach of the Tigers.
“We fought hard and moved the ball but couldn’t punch it in,” said senior Damon Longstreet. “Once we got down, that put us into more passing situations. Hutchinson got good pressure up front and had good coverage on our receivers. Long runs hurt us, especially by their quarterback.”
Marcus Hahn scored on runs of 80 and 17 yards to pace Hutchinson. The quarterback rushed the ball only six times but gained 126 yards. Hutch also scored on runs of two and 19 yards and on a 13-yard touchdown pass.
“It was frustrating that we could not score, but we did move the ball pretty well,” adds Longstreet. “Playing in the dome was a great experience, something we will remember forever. The overall team chemistry was great. Everyone worked hard and picked each other up, which you got to have on a good team.”
Pavlovich gave credit to Hutchinson’s kicking game, which put Delano at the 20 yard line most of the time it got the ball after a score.
A big turning point, according to Pavlovich, came after Delano trailed 14-7 and had pushed the ball to Hutchinson’s 4-yard-line. A motion penalty pushed the Tigers back to the 11 on third down. After a missed Delano field goal Hutchinson hit with an 80-yard touchdown run to lead 21-7 at the half.
Delano also controlled the ball in the third quarter, but could not capitalize, slowed by more penalties and some interceptions.
“Hutchinson doubled teamed our top two receivers and put seven players at the line to stop our top rusher,” adds the coach about receivers Longstreet and Adam Kraft and running back Jack Nelson, who gained 72 yards on 20 carries.
Pavlovich tried to get Kraft involved in the offense, running the receiver on a reverse and he tried a pass. He caught six passes for 85 yards.
Quarterback Toby Hanson scored the lone Tiger touchdown on a 35 yard run. He rushed the ball 10 times for 57 yards and was 11 of 29 passing for 172 yards with three interceptions.
Longstreet caught three passes for 45 yards and Joel Koenecke gained 42 yards on two pass receptions. Aaron Wagner rushed five times for 20 yards.
Another key factor was that junior Brett Norling did not play after having surgery on his broken thump two days before the game. Norling was another threat at running back and pass receiver who also played at defensive back.
For the game, Delano ran more plays (68-48), had two more first downs (19-17) and had two fewer total yards (325-322). Delano converted 11 of 17 third down plays.
The young players held their own, notes Pavlovich, including sophomores Kevin Kneisl, Carl Schaefbauer and Koenecke, plus ninth-graders Walker Russek and place kicker Evan Tolkkinen.
Sawyer Thomas led the defense with eight tackles, followed by Ben Jacobs with seven, Wagner and Schaefbauer each had four and Christian Triplett, Nate Meyers and Brady Miller all had three tackles.
Triplett has been in the Metrodome many times over the years, including when watching brother Nate play football for the Gophers and Vikings. The senior now has his own experience in the dome to boast about.
He hopes to play football in college, being recruited by the likes of Minnesota, North Dakota State and Iowa. Triplett, who also played in the state baseball tournament last season, attributes the good run this football season to having guys with experience playing together.
Longstreet and Hanson are two starters from the basketball team that went to state last year. There will be no rest since the season starts earlier than ever. In fact, the first game set for Nov. 23 was moved to Nov. 27 because the football season just ended for the Tigers.