September 21, 2006 at 7:31 a.m.

Turnovers and a strong Totino ground game lead to loss

Wildcats turn ball over six times, Totino Grace takes advantage for 35-7 win
Turnovers and a strong Totino ground game lead to loss
Turnovers and a strong Totino ground game lead to loss

The Totino Grace Eagles ran hard at the Wildcats early, helped out by some Wildcat mistakes, and scored 28 points in the first half. The Wildcats’ play improved later in the game, but several Wildcat turnovers allowed the Eagles a 35-7 victory over the Wildcats last Friday night at Moody Field at Chisago Lakes High School.

The Eagles took the opening kickoff and marched down the field, scoring on a five-yard run to take a 7-0 lead with 9:18 left in the first quarter. After a short kickoff and a 6-yard return by Adam Gemuenden, the Wildcats started on their own 36 yard line. They managed to get one first down, but the drive stalled and they were forced to punt from the 50.

The Eagle punt returner caught Christian Swanberg’s punt at the 12. He got some nice blocks, moved left and headed for pay dirt down the left sideline. But, the speedy Swanberg chased him from behind and hauled him down at the 12. The Wildcats caught a break as an Eagle personal foul near midfield moved the ball back to the Eagle 32 yard line.

The Eagles moved the ball to the Wildcat 44. After an incomplete pass on third and eight, they lined up to punt. But they caught the Wildcats off guard with a fake, completing a 20 yard pass for a first down. The Eagles scored four plays later on a two yard run to make it 14-0 with 2:27 left in the first quarter.

The Wildcats went three and out on their next possession, and the Eagles took over at their own 36 after a fair catch of Swanberg’s punt. Six plays later, they faced a fourth and five on the Wildcat 33. The Eagles completed a short pass, and at least two Wildcats missed tackles as the receiver ran to the endzone to make it 21-0 Eagles early in the second quarter.

Junior running back Jon Lien then provided a little excitement for Wildcat fans. He took a kickoff at the 12 yard line, burst through the middle and ran right. He broke a tackle near midfield and was hauled down at the Eagle 33 after a return of 55 yards. But the Wildcats fumbled at the Eagle 35 just two plays later. The Eagles once again moved the ball down the field, scoring in seven plays to take a 28-0 lead.

The Wildcats got the ball back two more times, but an interception and a fumble gave it right back to the Eagles. With 43 seconds left in the half, the Eagles had the ball first and ten at the Wildcat 30. The Eagle quarterback lofted a pass toward the right corner of the end zone. Eagle senior defensive back Chris Wille, playing with an injured thumb, made a great diving interception in the end zone for a touchback, keeping the halftime score at Totino Grace 28, Chisago Lakes 0.

Senior Jeff Hollister returned the opening kickoff of the second half to the Wildcat 35 yard line. The Wildcats then embarked on a twelve-play drive, highlighted by runs of 12 yards and 17 yards by quarterback Brian Jennissen. Facing third and seven from Eagle 10, Jennissen hit junior fullback Jake Spehar with a pass in the backfield. Spehar did the rest, bursting into the end zone to get the Wildcats on the board. Swanberg added the extra point and cut the Eagle lead to 21 with 7:34 left in the third quarter. But the Eagles took just three minutes to get those points back, with a seven play, 61 yard drive that put them back up 35-7.

One play after the Eagles recovered another Wildcat fumble, senior linebacker Bob LeVasseur picked off an Eagle pass at the 50. But the Wildcats fumbled it right back to the Eagles a few plays later. Neither team scored in the fourth quarter, making the final score Totino Grace 35, Chisago Lakes 7.

“It was disappointing,” said Wildcat head Coach Bill Weiss. “We just didn’t play our game at all. And when we did start to do some things, it was ‘too little, too late.’ You can’t climb back from a 28 point deficit against a team like that.

“The one positive that came out of this is that we know what we need to do to get better. And to accomplish what we want to this year, we’ll likely have to go through this team again,” added Weiss.

The Wildcats (1-2 overall, 1-1 conference) take on their closest rival, the North Branch Vikings (1-2 overall, 1-2 conference) this Friday, September 22 at 7 p.m. at North Branch. “

North Branch is a different team this year,” said Weiss. “They had a changeover in staff. They look to be focused on running the ball hard, but they can threaten you with a deep passing game. They’re a pretty balanced team with a ‘no-frills’ approach. They’re going to bring it right at you. And they’re always tough, always well-prepared. This should be another good game between the Wildcats and the Vikings.”

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