October 17, 2003 at 10:19 a.m.
If there is ever a team in the Rum River conference you can’t take lightly, Milaca is it.
Despite their 2-4 record, three of their four losses going into their game with Chisago Lakes was by nine points or less. Two were by a touchdown or less.
To make matters worse for the Wildcats, Milaca was at home, a place where they have historically been unstoppable, at least according to ‘Cats head coach Bill Weiss.
“Milaca has always historically been tough at home. As a matter of fact, I think we’ve only won twice there since I’ve been here,” said Weiss.
True to form, Milaca gave the Wildcats everything they could handle and then some, leading by 14 at one point, only to watch Chisago fight back and steal a 28-21 win, keeping the ‘Cats conference title hopes alive with one game left on the schedule.
The Wildcats came out of the gates flat and the Wolves took advantage. Milaca went to the air immediately, throwing on their first three plays. The game plan worked early as Milaca stayed alive with an important fourth and long conversion, finally punching the ball in from three yards away to take the lead 6-0 after the first quarter.
It was more of the same to start the second quarter for the Wolves, dialing up one big play after another before a seven yard touchdown run pushed the Milaca lead to 12-0. Add the two point conversion and Chisago Lakes was down 14-0.
“We started out really slow,” mentioned Weiss. “I really expected us to do a lot better than we did right away. But, our guys never panicked. That’s the difference between this year’s team and last year. The kids don’t panic when they’re down. They relax knowing that there is still a lot of football to be played.”
There was.....and they did.
Starting at their own 27 yard line, Chisago Lakes road the running game down the field, marching 77 yards in 10 plays to break the shutout. Aaron James finished the drive with a 12 yard touchdown run on third down, pulling the ‘Cats within seven at the half.
“Basically at the half, we talked about making some adjustments and that was about it. We were all very relaxed,” said Weiss. “Our guys felt pretty confident. It was just a matter of making adjustments, Nothing major, it was all minor stuff.”
Evidentally, that’s all they needed. James and company picked up where they left off in the third quarter, strolling down the field with one run after another. This time, the ‘Cats moved 75 yards in 14 plays, capped off again by another James score, pulling the Wildcats even 14-14.
Even though the Chisago offense was officially back, Milaca wasn’t going to make their comeback easy. Tied 14-14 early in the fourth quarter, the Wolves jumped back in front on a 10 yard touchdown pass on their first drive of the quarter.
While Milaca went back to their strength to re-take the lead, the Wildcats did the same to tie it, mixing in run after run. James, Danny Reed, and Thomas Moody took turns moving the ball down the field with eight straight runs, the last of which went to James who scored his third touchdown of the game on a seven yard scamper. For the second time, the game was tied with time winding down.
A defensive stop was critical. At first, it didn’t appear to be coming as Milaca began to move the ball. Then, on third and long, the Wolves run was stuffed for a loss, forcing fourth down and nine yards to go. Milaca, with nothing to lose decided to roll the dice, only to have their fourth down conversion attempt fall to the ground, giving the ball to Chisago 1:30 left in the fourth.
The Wildcats had 50 yards to move in just over a minute to get the win. Piece of cake. Dominated all night on the ground, in order to move the ball, the ‘Cats struck through the air as Marcus Burgin hauled down a Moody pass at the Milaca 12. Two plays later, James closed the door with his fourth touchdown of the game, this time from two yards out, giving Chisago their first lead of the game, 28-21. Along with his four touchdowns, James finished the game with 143 yards rushing on 19 carries.
The score came with 45 seconds to play leaving Milaca little time to answer. On the Wolves second play of the drive, Todd Froberg tossed the final blow, picking up Chisago’s first interception of the game, solidifying a 28-21 win.
“It was a must win for us and the kids knew it,” remarked Weiss. “We did get the win and our offense achieved most of their goals, they got some points, so I would give them a B for what they did. We didn’t play great but we played well enough to win so we’ll take it.’
What choice do they have? With the win, Chisago Lakes, North Branch, and Princeton are now all tied for first in the conference with one week left. While Princeton faces Mora, the Wildcats have North Branch to look forward to on Wednesday night. The winner of that game will have at least a share of the Rum River title.
“We’ve talked about being conference champs since the first day we were together, back in two-a-days,” replied Weiss. “We told them that this is exactly where we thought we would be. There is no question it’s a big game, but we’re ready for it. Our guys are up to the challenge.”
Chisago Lakes 28
1 2 3 4 F
Chisago Lakes 0 7 7 14 28
Milaca 7 7 0 7 21
M- 3 yrd. TD run
(Kick failed) 0-7
M- 7 yrd. TD run
(2 pt. conversion good) 0-14
CL- James 12 yrd. TD run
(Kick good) 7-14
CL- James 1 yrd. TD run
(Kick good) 14-14
M- 10 yrd. TD rec.
(Kick good) 14-21
CL- James 7 yrd. TD run
(Kick good) 21-21
CL- James 2 yrd. TD run
(Kick good) 28-21
Chisago Lakes statistics
Moody- 4-8, 119 yrds.
Tschida- 1-1, 10 yrds.
James- 19 rush, 143 yrds., 4 TD
Moody- 25 rush, 90 yrds.
Reed- 6 rush, 45 yrds.
Arndt- 3 rush, 16 yrds.
Reed- 4 rec., 93 yrds.
Burgin- 1 rec., 36 yrds.
Chisago Lakes- 423 yards
(294 rush, 129 pass)
Milaca- 309 yards
(140 rush, 169 pass)