New London-Spicer Dome-bound after 56-30 win
ST. CLOUD — Ben Beuning and Chris Nelson were eighth-graders sitting in the cheering section the last time New London-Spicer reached the Metrodome.
This time, the two seniors will be on the field when the Wildcats take on Rochester Lourdes at 4:30 p.m. Saturday in the now-doomed Dome.
Beuning and Nelson combined for 13 tackles in the Cats’ impressive Class AAA quarterfinal victory over the Rebels of Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton by a 56-30 score on Saturday night at Husky Stadium.
“This was something we’ve wanted since we were little kids,” said Beuning, a linebacker and fullback whose father Paul played on the Belgrade team that played in the first Prep Bowl in 1982.
The 2009 NLS team went all the way, defeating Glencoe-Silver Lake in a riveting championship game.
GSL was on the Cats mind this week.
“We’d had trouble with Glencoe (one of two NLS losses this season) and the Rebels were like GSL with a tough running game,” said Nelson, a defensive end.
The Rebels matched the Cats score-for-score late into the second half. Chad Johnson worked the outside and Joe Flatt bolted inside on traps, helping forge a 16-16 tie with 5:14 left in the first half.
But NLS answered seconds before the break, with Ryan Vraa hitting tight Ethan Bohlsen over the middle for the TD and then throwing to Jarrett Hatlestad for the two-point conversion that gave the Wildcats a 24-16 lead at the half.
The late TD, which NLS coach Dan Essler later said was one of the game’s biggest plays, mimicked the Cats’ second touchdown. On that play, Vraa hit tight end Brett Olson from four yards, also under the goal post. It was the first varsity TD for both tight ends.
Beuning, an inside linebacker who led the tackle chart with sidekick Jarod Vossen, said the defense was able to adjust to contain Johnson’s cutbacks and better control the traps in the second half.
And NLS’ nitro-loaded offense began to take over.
In back-to-back third-quarter carries, Adam Essler sprinted for touchdowns on runs of 21 and 88 yards for a 38-16 lead with 5:58 left in the third period.
Essler sizzled again, piling up 285 yards in 31 attempts and scoring three TDs.
The Cats rushed for 389 yards.
Vraa credited his offensive line for creating the running space: left tackle Alec DeSchepper, LG Jacolby Hawkenson, center Noah Welsh, RG Brandon Knisley and RT Nick Kester.
The Cats were a happy bunch when the game ended.
Dan Essler noted that the pressure was on after being denied last year in the quarterfinals and with a talented line-up that was favored against the gritty Rebels.
“This has been a goal for three or four years and what the kids have talked about all the time,” he said. “They were a little nervous for this one.”
So, the Wildcats will once again play under the Big Top before it becomes, like Met Stadium before it, only a memory.
New London-Spicer 56,
DGF (8-3) 8 8 6 8 — 30
NLS (9-2) 8 16 14 18 — 56
N – Adam Essler 1 run (Essler run)
D – Chad Johnson 5 run (Johnson run)
N – Brett Olson 4 pass from Ryan Vraa (Shane Zylstra pass from Ryan Vraa)
D – Joe Flatt 3 run (Johnson run)
N – Ethan Bohlsen 3 pass from Vraa (Jarrett Hatlestad pass from Vraa)
N – Essler 21 run (Zylstra pass from Vraa)
N – Essler 88 run (fail)
D – Johnson 7 run (run fail)
N – Zylstra 19 pass from Vraa (fail)
N – Hatlestad 12 run (fail)
D – Flatt 2 run (Johnson run)
N – Ben Beuning 4 run (fail)
First downs: 13 … Rushing: 46-172 … Passing (com-att-yds-int.): 7-10-174-0 … Fumbles lost: 0 … Penalties: 4-40
Rushing: Chad Johnson 21-87, Joe Flatt 14-86 … Passing: Zach Nelson 7-10-174-0 ... Receiving: Dylan Berggren 1-18, Alex Fuchs 1-37, Johnson 3-92, Alex Matthews 1-20, Flatt 1-7 … Punting: Johnson 3-31.7
First downs: 20 … Rushing: 49-389… Passing (com-att-yds-int.): 7-11-58-0 … Fumbles lost: 1 … Penalties: 1-10
Rushing: Adam Essler 3 1-185, Ben Beuning 6-27, Trey Austvold 5-37, Ryan Vraa 1-(-9), Jarrett Hatlestad 6-49 … Passing: Vraa 7-11-58-0 ... Receiving: Hatlestad 1-11, Shane Zylstra 3-36, Essler 1-4, Brett Olson 1-4, Ethan Bohlsen 1-3 … Punting: none … Tackles (solo-assist): Jacob Vossen 10-2, Austvold 9, Chris Nelson 5-2, Beuning 5-1, Austin Adams 3-1, Essler 3-1, Hatlestad 3-1, Eben Pederson 3-0, Rick Mendoza 2-0, Brandon Knisley 2-0, Luke Gould 2-1, Eric Schneider 1-1, Ethan Parsons 1-1, Alex Groff 2-0 … QB sacks: Nelson ½, Mendoza ½, Jared Travis ½, Schneider ½