ST. CLOUD -- Annandale won the head-to-head battle of Wright County Conference antagonists on Saturday afternoon at Husky Stadium coming from in back to tip the Wildcats of New London-Spicer 20-17.
For the second year in a row, the Section 5 champions advance to the Class AAA semifinals. The Cardinals will play Rochester Lourdes at the Metrodome next Saturday.
The Wildcats pack up with a 7-5 record after their second loss this fall to the Cardinals, now 10-1.
The Cats led 14-6 at halftime on touchdowns catches by Aaron Ruter and Nick LaPatka.
Quarterback John Kalthoff directed a 70 yard drive to tie the score 14-14 after the Cardinals ace lobbed a two-point conversion pass to Brett Ahsenmacher in the corner of the end zone in the first minute of the final quarter.
NLS answered right back with a 60-yard drive that stalled at the five from where Daiton Johnson kicked a go-ahead 22-yard field goal with 4:48 left.
That was plenty of time for Kalthoff and the comeback Cardinals. All season, they'd rally in the second half.
After a good kickoff return to near midfield, Kalthoff found Ahsenmacher along the NLS side for a 30-yard gain. Seven plays later, including the third pass interference call to go against the Cats, Kalthoff barged in from the one for a 20-14 lead with just 38 second left.
NLS last-ditch drive ended in an interception and runback as time expired.
The Wildcats outgained the Cards 289 to 276 yards but had only 49 net yards in the second half.
In this crisp, exciting game, the Wildcats just left to many points on the field.
Defensive tackle Chris Nelson intercepted Kalthoff on the opening possession of the second half and returned it about 50 yards to the Annandale 16. But the Cards held firm when linebacker Alex Fournier, their defensive ace, sacked Ryan Vraa for a 7-yard loss.
"We didn't finish," commented NLS head coach Dan Essler. "We had all the momentum and they stopped us. We never really got it back.
A pass interference call that went against the Cats really hurt late in the third quarter. Instead of having the ball at their own 15, the Cardinals got the ball at the 7 and scored a moment later to tie the score, 14-all.
"That was a killer both emotionally and field position," said Essler. "We thought it was a no call or it would be against them."
Offensive tackle and captain Andy McDonnell acknowledged his disappointment as well as the abilities of the adversary.
"They were tough," said one of the 25 Wildcat seniors on this team. "Their defensive line isn't that big but they're quick and their receivers are really good. But there were just to many times that we should have scored."
Austin Stone rushed for 107 yards in 32 carries but not much of that came after halftime. Adam Essler rushed for 40 yards and tossed to Ruter for a short touchdown to open the scoring. Trent Boie snagged a huge fourth-down pass from Vraa for 21 yards to set up the Cats' field goal.
"Their receivers were tough to defend," said NLS safety Joey Dreier. "It's a tough way for the season to end but this has been a lot of fun."
Annandale 20, NL-Spicer 17
NL-Spicer (7-5)............. 0 14 0 3 -- 17
Annandale (10-1)............ 0 6 0 14 -- 20
NLS - Aaron Ruter 5 pass from Adam Essler (Daiton Johnson kick)
Ann - Matt Miller 8 run (kick fail)
NLS - Nick LaPatka 9 pass from Ryan Vraa (Johnson kick)
Ann - Andrew Russek 1 run (Brent Ahsenmacher pass from John Kalthoff)
NLS - Johnson 22 field goal
Ann - Kalthoff 1 run (kick fail)
Rushing: 46-159 ... Passing (com-att-yds-int.): 10-21-130-1... Fumbles lost: 1
Rushing: Ryan Vraa 5-12, Austin Stone 32-107, Adam Essler 9-40 ... Passing: Vraa 9-20-125-1, Essler 1-1-5-0 ... Receiving: Trent Boie 3-31, Essler 2-28, Ben Buening 1-8, Aaron Ruter 4-63 ... Interceptions: Chris Nelson
Rushing: 41-140 ... Passing (com-att-yds-int.): 7-12-136-1 ... Fumbles lost: none
Rushing: Brett Ahsenmacher 8-56, Aaron Russek 12-36, Matt Miller 9-31, Nic Anderson 5-12 John Kalthoff 7-5 ... Passing: Kalthoff 7-12-136-1 ... Receiving: Ashsenmacher 3-71, Miller 3-60, Anderson 1-5