9/12/2013 3:43:00 PM Berg throws for school record in rout Wildcats flash their new and improved passing game with a 292 yard day from senior Mitch Berg in a 41-18 win
by CHUCK FITZER
Wildcat quarterback Mitch Berg passed for a Chisago Lakes High School record 292 yards and four touchdowns, wide receiver Kellen Reed caught six passes for 127 yards and a touchdown and halfback Josh Parks rushed 17 times for 98 tough yards and two touchdowns as the Wildcats blasted the Duluth Denfeld Hunters 41-18 last Friday, September 6 in Duluth. Berg was named Athlete of the Week by the Pioneer Press for his accomplishments.
Berg completed 16 of 21 passes in the game and completed passes to seven different receivers in piling up all those passing yards. “That was a pretty fun one,” he said. “It seemed like they had a strategy of trying to stop the run game, so that opened some stuff up. There was no wind, so that was nice, too. It was just a good day. I felt pretty good in warm-ups and felt the timing was good all night with a bunch of different receivers.” Wildcat head coach Bill Weiss said “The thing about Mitch doing it is that he’s just so smooth you hardly noticed it was happening. His balls are well placed and he just knows where to go. Mitch did a good job of finding the seams and the receivers ran good routes.”
Reed, whose six receptions were a career high, echoed his teammate’s thoughts. He said “They were heavy in trying to stop the run and that opened up the passing lanes up the middle. It’s always nice to catch some balls. I feel like we’re going to have a really good season. The guys on this team know each other well, are good friends and play well together.” Weiss said “Kellen had two receptions where he split the seam between the safeties and went for long distances. He had a big night receiving.” The Wildcats took advantage of an early mistake by the Hunters to get on the board. Denfeld took the opening kickoff and returned it to their own 38 yard line. On the first play from scrimmage, the Hunters fumbled and Parks recovered the ball at the Denfeld 36 yard line. The Wildcats moved the ball a little and faced fourth and six from the 21.
Parks took the handoff and ran 21 yards for a touchdown. Hunter Thompson kicked the extra point and the Wildcats led 7-0 just ten plays into the game. The teams traded the next two possessions and the Wildcats started a drive at their own 22. On the first play of the drive, Berg kept the ball on an option and popped through the line, running for 22 yards and a first down. On second and five from the Wildcats 49, Berg threw a pass to Jake McKenzie at the line of scrimmage and McKenzie raced downfield for 41 yards before stopped at the ten yard line. Two plays later, Berg hit Will Gillach at the three and Gillach stepped into the end zone for a touchdown.
After Thompson converted the extra point, the Wildcats led 14-0 near the end of the first quarter. Denfeld answered with a 12 play touchdown drive on their next possession. They missed the extra point, cutting the Wildcat lead to 14-6 early in the second quarter. But the Wildcats answered right back. Starting the next drive at their own 31, the Wildcats moved to the Hunter 34 in just five plays. On first down, Berg dropped back and hit Reed over the middle at the 29. Reed split the defense and ran the ball all the way to the end zone for a touchdown, and the Wildcats led 21-6. Denfeld got the ball late in the second quarter at their own 47 yard line. After a 14 yard gain on the first play, the quarterback dropped back and heaved the ball towards the end zone. Gillach picked the ball off and was tackled at his own one yard line.
The half ended a few seconds later. Starting from their own 21 after the opening kickoff of the second half, the Wildcats pretty much erased any serious Denfeld thoughts about a comeback. On third and 10 from the 21, Berg hit Gillach for a 17 yard gain to keep the drive alive. On the next play, Berg again hit Reed over the middle. Reed outran most of the Hunter defense and appeared headed for a touchdown, but he was tackled just a few inches from the end zone, settling for a 61 yard gain. Parks scored his second touchdown of the game on the next play and, after the extra point by Thompson, the Wildcats led 28-6. Denfeld started to move the ball a little bit on their next series. Facing third and five from their own 43, they completed a pass near the line of scrimmage that looked like it might turn into a first down.
But the Wildcat defense jarred the ball loose and Josh Dutcher recovered it for the Wildcats at the 49. A 14 yard completion to Reed and a 16 yard completion to Parks on fourth and ten from the 35 gave the Wildcats a first down at the Denfeld 19. On second down from the 18, Berg hit Gillach at the 13 and Gillach ran into the end zone for his second touchdown of the day to make the Wildcats lead 35-6 with plenty of time left in the third quarter. The Hunters scored on their next possession to cut the lead to 35-12, but took a lot of time off the clock in doing so. The Wildcats didn’t take very long to go the other way. Starting from their own 42 after Jared McKenzie’s 12 yard kickoff return, Parks ran the ball twice for 25 yards to give the Wildcats a first down at the Denfeld 33. On the next play, Berg connected with his seventh receiver of the day, Michael Dunne, for a 33 yard touchdown pass that gave the Wildcats a 41-12 lead late in the third quarter. Denfeld scored a touchdown early in the fourth quarter, but all that did was change the final score of a satisfying Wildcat win.
The prolific Wildcat offense was impressive in this game. But winning the turnover battle was equally important in the Wildcats’ second win of the young season. Weiss said “They fumbled on the first play of the game and we capitalized on it offensively. That was definitely a tone setter for this game. One of our goals when we take the ball away is to convert it to a score. We had three takeaways on the night and did a good job protecting the ball, giving up a late fumble near the end.” Weiss talked about a couple of defensive players who shined in the Wildcat victory. “Kaleb Paehlke played a really nice game at linebacker,” said Weiss. “He was very active and was in on a lot of tackles, with six solo tackles and ten assists for the game. And as a defensive back, Jeremiah Jones was in shutdown mode. He nearly had an interception in the back of the end zone in the first half, but was ruled out of bounds. That was just an example of how he was in good position all night.” Weiss talked some more about the Wildcat passing game.
He said ”They were blitzing linebackers a lot, which gave us a bit of a problem trying to establish our interior run game, but that opened up the passing lanes. We need to give the offensive line credit for giving Mitch the protection he needed. He wasn’t hit all night except for being sacked once. When you throw the ball that often, it’s inevitable that you’re going to get hit or sacked, so the offensive line did a great job. And throwing to seven different receivers was very good on Mitch’s part. It showed that he can make good decisions, but also showed that we have a lot of guys who can make plays. We ran a lot of yards after the catches. Teams prioritize stopping the run against us. We have not always been able to take advantage of that, but we did on Friday night. “Josh Parks is such a talented back he was able to find some room and get some yards. We shut them out pretty good in the first quarter. They were able to move on us in the game and had some long drives, but we had a bend but don’t break philosophy on Friday night and we kept them off the scoreboard when it mattered.”
The Wildcats (2-0) are tied for first place in their half of the Mississippi 8 Conference. They will take on Duluth East tomorrow night at 7 p.m. at Chisago Lakes High School. “It’s another new opponent for us,” said Weiss. “I don’t know too much about them. They’re not off to a great start, but I know what it’s like to be 0-2 as a team. You’re hungry for a win. An 0-2 team can be very dangerous. Hopefully we can do some of the things we have been doing lately to get off to a good start and go from there.”