10/11/2012 10:14:00 AM CL surges for 27 second half points in win over BSM
Bradee Thompson celebrates the fumble he recovered during CL’s 27-20 win over BSM.
By CHUCK FITZER.
Last Friday night’s game against Benilde-St. Margaret’s in St. Louis Park had so many twists and turns and big plays that it’s hard to know where to start. But what matters most is that, in the end, the Wildcats overcame a 13 point deficit and came away with a 27-20 win over the Red Knights to improve their season record to 5-1. There were multiple heroes for the Wildcats in this one. Bradee Thompson had three sacks, recovered a fumbled and recovered an unintentional onside kick that set up the Wildcats’ second touchdown of the game. For the second time this season, Will Gillach intercepted a pass that sealed a victory for the Wildcats. The Wildcat defense stopped the Red Knights on downs deep in Wildcat territory on successive drives in the first half. And Eric Brown showed that he has regained a little bit more of his blazing speed with a 70 yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage in the second half. Wildcat head coach Bill Weiss thinks Thompson’s recovery on the kickoff may have been the game’s turning point. The Wildcats trailed 13-7 after Brown’s long touchdown run at the beginning of the second half. He said “After we scored first TD, we were trying a pooch kick meant to limit the return. It wasn’t supposed to be an onside kick. But Dan Sargeant pooched it into a strong wind and the ball was blown back toward our guys in the air.
It only ended up going about 15 yards. Bradee was right there on top of it. Our offense took it down the field and scored to put us up by one point. We had scored twice before their offense ever had a chance to take the field in the second half. That was quite a momentum builder for us. We had erased a 13 point deficit rather quickly. Had we not scored on the first drive and got the ball back right away, who knows what would have happened.” After Sargeant pushed a field goal attempt wide on the Wildcats’ opening drive of the game, the Red Knights took over at their own 20 yard line. After a nine yard pass completion to receiver Samuel Lynch on first down, Red Knight quarterback Keaton Studsrud (what a great football name) again dropped back to pass. He threw the ball down the left sideline. The Wildcat defensive back fell down before the ball got there. The now-wide open Lynch caught the ball and raced down the left sideline untouched all the way to the end zone for a 71 yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead. Josh Parks fielded the ensuing kickoff and returned it to the Wildcat 39 to set up good field position for the Wildcats’ second possession of the first quarter. But the Wildcats went three and out and were forced to punt from the 43. Mitch Berg’s punt took a nice Wildcat bounce and rolled dead at the Benilde 18. The Red Knights matriculated the ball down the field and, nine plays later, had a first down at the Wildcat 24.
Three plays later, the Red Knights faced fourth and three at the 17. They decided to go for it. They handed the ball off to running back Garrett Haughey for his only carry of the game. The Wildcat defense came up huge, stuffing Haughey after a two yard gain and turning the ball over to their offense on downs at the end of the first quarter. Fullback Kaleb Paehlke’s two ten yard runs helped the Wildcats move the ball into Red Knight territory. But on second and five from the Red Knight 48, Berg threw an interception and the Red Knights took over on their own 46. Two pass plays later, the Red Knights had the ball first down at the Wildcat 19. But the defense again stiffened. A loss of seven, a gain of four and an incomplete pass gave the Red Knights fourth and 12 at the 21 yard line. Studsrud hit Mikey Koller with a quick pass to the left, but Koller was swarmed under immediately by a whole host of Wildcats for a one yard gain, and the Wildcats had once again stopped the Red Knights deep in Wildcat territory. After the Wildcats went three and out and punted, Benilde took over at their own 39 yard line. On third and five from the Wildcat 32 yard line, Studsrud rolled left. The Wildcat defensive back on that side of the field rushed up to make the tackle.
That left Koller wide open about 15 yards down the field. He caught Studsrud’s pass and waltzed into the end zone untouched. After a missed extra point, the Red Knights led 13-0 going into halftime. After a Benilde pooch kick to open the second half, the Wildcats started at their own 30. On the first play, Brown took the handoff, cut through a gaping hole on the left side and ran past the entire Red Knight defense untouched all the way to the end zone to get the Wildcats on the scoreboard. Berg was sacked on the Wildcats’ try for two and the Wildcats trailed 13-6. Thompson recovered the accidental onside kick on the ensuing play and the offense was right back in business. They ran the ball nine straight times, with all of the plays gaining between two and seven yards. On the ninth play, at first and goal from the four, Paehlke took the handoff, ran to the right of the center, was hit at the two and dove into the end zone for a touchdown. Sargeant nailed the extra point and the game was tied at 13. The Red Knights ran just four plays before being forced to punt. The shanked punt went just 20 yards and the Wildcats tool over at their own 38. This time, the Wildcats ran twelve straight times. On the first play of the fourth quarter, at first and goal from the seven, Brown took a pitch left, cut upfield and hurdled a tackler at the goal line, landing in the end zone for his second touchdown of the game. The extra point was good, and the Wildcats had their first lead of the game at 20-13. They had done a clinic on ball control in the third quarter, running 20 plays to just four for the Red Knights, controlling the ball for over ten of the twelve minutes in the quarter and scoring two touchdowns. After the ensuing kickoff, the Red Knights went to work at their own 29 yard line. On second and six from the 33, Studsrud dropped back to pass.
Thompson burst through the line, flushed Studsrud right and sacked him for a nine yard loss. On the next play, Studsrud dropped back again and a whole host of Wildcat defenders came through and flushed him forward. Thompson wrapped him up and threw him to the ground two yards behind the line of scrimmage for his second sack in a row. The Wildcats had again forced Benilde into a three and out. Taking over at their own 39 after the Benilde punt, the Wildcats did something they hadn’t done since late in the second quarter: they passed. With a steady crosswind blowing, Berg’s pass was picked off by Koller, who returned it 35 yards to the Wildcat 15. Studsrud hit tight end Jack Sims with a 15 yard touchdown pass on the next play. The extra point was good, the score was tied 20-20 and the advantage the Wildcats had gained from their third quarter ball control had vanished. On the ensuing drive, the Wildcats went right back to their bread and butter. Starting at their own 26, they ran the ball nine straight times, including a 21 yard scamper by Parks, to move the ball to the Benilde 28. After a loss of two, and incomplete pass and a seven yard run by Brown, the Wildcats faced fourth and five at the 30. A pitch to the right to Parks was sniffed out by the Benilde defense and Parks was swarmed under for no gain, ending the Wildcat drive, and the Red Knights took over on downs with 3:41 left in the game. On first down, Wildcat defensive back Jeremiah Jones nearly picked off a pass.
On second down, Studsrud ran a quarterback draw, but Sargeant stood his ground and tackled Studsrud for a three yard gain. On third down, Studsrud lined up in the shotgun. The snap was low and Studsrud was unable to get a handle on it. Thompson was again Johnny-on-the-spot, recovering the fumble to give the Wildcats the ball at the Benilde 20 with 2:58 left in the game. Paehlke plowed up the middle on first down, breaking a couple of tackles before he was tripped up at the five. Two plays later, Parks ran it in from the two and, after the extra point, the Wildcats led 27-20 with 1:37 left in the game. The Red Knights began their final drive of the game on their own 23 yard line. Passes of nine, seven and 12 yards moved the ball to the Wildcat 49 yard line. On the next play, Studsrud dropped back and threw downfield to the right. He overthrew the intended receiver. Will Gillach was waiting for the ball at the Wildcat 40 yard line. He dropped to one knee, caught the ball and ran off the field, swarmed under by happy teammates. Gillach’s interception sealed the Wildcat win. Brown finished with 13 carries for 157 yards and two touchdowns. And he’s still not fully recovered from his early season hamstring injury. He said “I don’t have all my speed back yet. I feel I’m only at about 80 or 85 percent. But it felt good tonight. It’s the best it’s felt all season. Hopefully, it will continue to improve.” Weiss was encouraged by Brown’s performance. He said “This is the first week Eric didn’t complain of any soreness in his leg. He’s coming back at right time. He hasn’t taken a whole lot of hits this year because of his limited playing time, so he’s pretty healthy. It has been difficult for him to be patient in recovery. He did a good job in rehab and so did the trainers.
It’s good to see him back healthy and able to play at a high level. Parks and Paehlke each carried the ball 14 times. Parks finished with 52 yards, Paehlke ran for 75 yards and both players scored a touchdown. Thompson was excited after his performance and the team’s big comeback win. “We came out flat in the first half,” he said. “But we warmed that chili up at halftime. Once the chili was hot, we brought some to get some!” He continued, “We got a good speech at halftime from Dan Sargeant. And the offensive line really stepped it up in the second half, starting with the big hole they made for Brown on the first play. That really got me going!” “It’s been typical of a lot of our games to have to fight to get ourselves in position to win,” said Weiss. “In football, you’re going to have ebbs and flows in any game. We’ve been fortunate to come out on top on most of our games this year and this game was no different. The two times we stopped them on downs in the first half were huge. Bradee was in the right place at the right time throughout the whole game and made some big plays. Benilde tried to run inside traps Matt Hasselquist’s way and he did a nice job blowing them up right there or bouncing them outside. Josh Dutcher knocked down a big third down pass. And Dan Sargeant seemed to be able to close the space down pretty quickly and made some nice plays. He’s been doing it all year. And Joe Davis had another nice game for us.” The Wildcats (5-1) will face their toughest test of the season as they take on unbeaten and fourth-ranked Spring Lake Park tomorrow night at 7 p.m. at Spring Lake Park High School. Weiss said “Traditionally, Spring Lake Park is one of the best teams in the conference and this year is no exception. It will be a tough test, but we’re looking forward to the challenge. We’ve learned a lot from everything we’ve gone through this season, especially the hard lessons learned from our loss to Cooper. We are a much better football team right now than we were at that time.”