September 27, 2012 at 8:37 a.m.
Will Gillach’s diving interception of at St. Louis Park pass late in the fourth quarter stopped the Orioles’ drive for the go-ahead touchdown and preserved the Wildcats’ tenuous five-point lead. The Wildcats scored two more times later in the game and came away with a 46-26 win last Friday, September 21 at Chisago Lakes High School. Leading 31-26, the Wildcats were forced to punt from deep in their own territory. The Orioles took over at the Wildcat 48 yard line with 6:50 left in the game. Runs of seven and six yards moved the ball to the Wildcat 35. After one incomplete pass, Oriole quarterback Quinn Livdahl again dropped back. He threw the ball upfield toward the right sideline. It looked like it was going to hit the ground for another incompletion when seemingly out of nowhere Gillach appeared and dove for the ball, snatching it just a few inches off the turf and hanging on as he hit the ground at the Oriole 23 and rolled over.
The Wildcats quickly took advantage of the turnover. On the first play after the interception, Wildcat quarterback Mitch Berg hit tight end Josh Dutcher with a nice pass over the middle at the Wildcat 35. Dutcher followed several blockers down the field to the right all the way down to the Oriole 16. On first down, Berg called his own number and started right. He cut back towards the middle and made a nice broken field run into the end zone for a touchdown. On the conversion attempt, Quade Zupko took a pitch left and scored easily to stretch the Wildcat lead to 37-26 with 4:10 left in the game. After the ensuing kickoff, the Orioles took over at their own 34 yard line. Bradee Thompson sacked Livdahl on first down for a loss of nine yards. Two plays later, the Orioles faced fourth and 12 at the 32. As Livdahl dropped back to pass, Matt Hasselquist wrapped him up and slammed him to the ground at the 27 for another sack, ending any Oriole hopes of a late comeback. Fullback Kaleb Paehlke broke loose up the middle on the next play and was tripped up at the 13.
Two plays later, Zupko scored off right tackle on a five yard run to make the final score Chisago Lakes 46, St. Louis Park 26. The Wildcats dominated the game in time of possession, moved the ball up and down the field almost at will and stifled the Oriole offense for most of the game. But the Orioles scored off of two Wildcat turnovers and had two long touchdown plays to keep themselves within striking distance. On the game’s first play from scrimmage, the Wildcats fumbled at their own 29 yard line and the Orioles scooped it up and returned it to the Wildcat ten. But they fumbled it right back to the Wildcats on the very next play. The Wildcats went on an impressive 11 play, 90 yard drive. Highlights include Berg, on third and four, dragging three tacklers for a first down; Paehlke going up the middle for 16 yards; and Parks taking a handoff left at the St. Louis Park 45, spinning back to the right and running to the right to the 17 yard line. A block in the back penalty and a two yard run put the Wildcats at second and eight from the 25. Berg passed to Paehlke down the middle for 20 yards.
On the next play, Berg rolled right and flipped the ball to Dutcher just over the goal line. Lindstrom’s extra point was good and the Wildcats led 7-0. After stopping the Orioles three and out, the Wildcats took over at their own 48. On second and nine, Berg hit Miles Turk in stride at the 15. Turk had a step on the defender and raced into the end zone for a touchdown. “I knew I could beat him,” said Turk, after the game. The extra point was blocked and the Wildcats led 13-0. Eric Brown, who injured his hamstring earlier in the season, made an appearance on the Wildcats’ next drive. On third and four from the St. Louis Park 35, Brown took a pitch left, broke a tackle at the 25 and ran down the sideline, getting tackled just inches short of the end zone. It was Brown’s only carry of the game. Three plays later, Berg scored on a keeper up the middle and after the try for two failed the Wildcats led 19-0 just over two minutes into the second quarter. It looked like the Wildcats were on their way to a blowout win.
But the Orioles weren’t done yet. On the ensuing drive, they faced second and seven from their own ten yard line. Livdahl threw a ball to the 40 near the left sideline. Oriole receiver DJ Pollard outjumped a Wildcat defensive back for the ball, hauled it in and ran untouched all the way down the field for a touchdown. After the teams again exchanged fumbles, the Wildcats took over at their own 37 yard line. Berg dropped back to pass on the first play and was hit as he threw. The ball popped into the hands of an Oriole defensive lineman and he rumbled 37 yards for a touchdown to cut the Wildcat lead to 19-13 with 6:37 left in the first half. With 90 seconds left in the first half, the Wildcats faced fourth and eight from the Oriole 44. Berg threw a long pass over the middle to Josh Parks at the 15. Parks caught the ball, pulled away from the defender and scored easily to give the Wildcats a 25-13 lead going into halftime. After pinning the Orioles deep on the opening kickoff of the second half, the stalwart Wildcat defense forced another three and out. After a short punt, the Wildcats took over at the St. Louis Park 44. Seven plays later, on second and two from the seven, Parks took a handoff up the middle, bounced outside to the right and accelerated around the corner into the end zone. After the extra point was blocked, the Wildcats led 35-13. On their next drive, the Wildcats faced fourth and ten from their own 35 yard line. Berg’s punt was blocked, and the Orioles recovered at the Wildcat seven.
They scored three plays later to cut the Wildcats lead to 31-20 with just over a minute left in the third quarter. On the Orioles’ next drive, they had the ball first and ten at their own 22 yard line. On a pitch left, running back Kashif Hayes got excellent blocking and ran past the Wildcat defense 78 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown. The pass for two points was broken up by Dan Sargeant and the Wildcats lead was cut to 31-26 with 9:12 left in the game. As a passer, Berg was 9 of 16 for 222 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. The leading rushers for the Wildcats were Parks, with nine carries for 67 yards and Paehlke, who had 15 carries for 74 yards. “There are a lot of momentum changers in any game,” said Wildcat head coach Bill Weiss. “Certainly Will Gillach’s big play was the right momentum changer at the right time for us. We had seemed kind of stagnant for awhile and Will’s interception kind of woke us up. Prior to that, it was a one possession game. After we scored and were up by two possessions, they had to pass to get down the field. Our defense got to pin their ears back a little bit and we took advantage of it with a couple of sacks and a couple of hurries that effectively ended the game.
“I thought we were closer to dictating things much sooner than that, but it just didn’t happen that way. On Josh Parks’ big fourth down touchdown reception near the end of the first half, he ran a nice route and Mitch Berg threw a very well placed ball. That was obviously a big play for us at the time. “I think our team is a team full of players that have a pretty strong belief in what they do. When things go bad, they’re able to respond, bounce back and not get too rattled. I would like to see us shore up some areas, like ball security, but fact that our guys can overcome those things says something. We’re going to get to point where hang on to the ball better and make more consistent decisions throughout game and we will be a pretty solid football team.” The Wildcats (3-1) will host St. Francis (0-4) tomorrow night at 7 p.m. for homecoming at Chisago Lakes High School. “Despite their record,” said Weiss, “they’ve played tough in all of their games. We always have very tough games with them. It’s developed into a pretty good rivalry. The teams have mutual respect for each other. I expect it to be a hard fought game for four quarters.”
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