For the first time since 1973, the New Lodon-Spicer Wildcats football team went unbeaten in the regular season. The Wildcats capped off the regular season Tuesday night in New London with a 29-14 triumph over Foley. That win also gave NLS the West Central North Conference title outright for the second straight year.
The Wildcats reached the Class AAA state semifinals last year before bowing to DeLaSalle, 31-14. But despite graduating several starters from that team, the team is back as the No. 1 seed in Section 6AAA and will host Sauk Centre Tuesday at 7 p.m.
"We expected to have a very good team this year," said NLS head coach Dan Essler. "This senior class has had a lot of success in football throughout their careers."
Essler pointed out that the seniors on this team did not lose a game in seventh, eighth or ninth grade. They allowed only one touchdown to be scored against them each season on the seventh- and eighth-grade teams. They also outscored opponents as freshmen 242-32 with all 32 points coming against reserves.
"We had a few adjustments to make on the offensive line," said Essler. "But otherwise, we knew we were pretty solid in most other areas."
And the Wildcats have good depth, as well as a talented starting cast. Luke Peterson, who had run the ball only twice all season and scored on a 54-yard run on one of them, had eight carries for 115 yards Tuesday night with touchdown sprints of 44 and 51 yards in the second and third quarters, respectively. Jake Essler, the team's rushing leader with 736 yards, was ill and limited to only four carries for 20 yards. The Wildcats also found other ways to score as Sam Schmid returned his second interception of the season 22 yards for a score in the third quarter and Brandon Zylstra caught a 28-yard touchdown pass from Jayme Moten in the fourth quarter.
Fast and furious
Brent O'Halloran scored three touchdowns Tuesday night in BOLD's 34-14 West Central South Conference win over Minnewaska Area in Morris. He scored on a 51-yard scamper in the first quarter, from 43 yards out in the second quarter and on a four-yard run in the third quarter.
O'Halloran, a junior, has reached paydirt 19 times rushing this season. Twelve of those touchdown jaunts have been from 20-or-more yards.
He has amassed 1,262 yards in 141 carries (9.0 yards per carry) this season. His backfield mate, Alex Steffel, has 974 yards in 190 carries and six touchdowns.
"(O'Halloran) is fast and very strong," said BOLD head coach Steve Solem. "We like to use both backs on tosses and sweeps and off-tackle runs. Then we come back with counters and counter traps that open up the middle for us."
If you counted only his touchdown runs this season, O'Halloran would have 672 yards rushing. He is averaging 35.4 yards per touchdown run. His longest TD was from 84 yards away. Five times he has scored on touchdowns of 60-or-more yards.
BOLD clinched the conference title outright Tuesday night with its sixth straight win. That coming after a rare 0-2 start.
"We had a number of kids that weren't able to play with us due to bad choices, grades and injuries," Solem said. "Thus, a lot of underclassmen learned a lot on the fly. When these young men became eligible, we started to play better and have improved every week."
The Warriors were coming off an 8-2 season and suffered heavy graduation losses.
"It took all of us, including the coaching staff, a while to adjust," said Solem.
Wolverines jump over Dawson-Boyd
Caleb Hanson connected with Brandon Madsen on a 49-yard touchdown pass with around 3:30 left in the game to pull MACCRAY within 33-32 of Dawson-Boyd in a Little Sioux Conference football game Tuesday night in Dawson.
MACCRAY head coach Mike Dammann elected to go for the lead, rather than the tie, because his team has struggled this season converting kicks. Again, Hanson connected with Madsen, giving the Wolverines a 34-33 lead they would not relinquish. The drive covered 60 yards in all.
The win also moved MACCRAY (6-2) to No. 2 in the Section 5A seedings, one spot ahead of the Blackjacks (6-2).
State tennis look
The Class A state tennis meet will be held at Reed-Sweatt Family Tennis Center in Minneapolis. The team portion is Oct. 27-28 and the individuals Oct. 29-30. Benson/KMS is the lone team entrant from the area and will open against Waseca at 8 a.m. on Oct. 27. Individuals qualifying from the area in-clude: Abby Fragodt of Benson/KMS and Megan Buysse of Redwood Valley in singles, Ellie Black-Lizzie Johnson of Litchfield, Catherine James-Lauren Alsaker of Benson/KMS, and Sarah Faehnrich-Laura Paulson of Minnewaska in doubles.
Fragodt, a senior who is making her fourth straight trip to state, was fifth in singles last year, third in doubles with Mackenzie Weber as a sophomore and fourth in doubles with Weber as a freshman. She will open against Kimmy Mrozek of Long Prairie/Upsala-Swan-ville Area in the first round this year.
Buysse, a senior, drew Taylor Washington of Mounds Park Academy as her first-round opponent. James, a junior, and Alsaker, a senior, will face Brittany Alexander and Margaret Pearson of Rochester Lourdes. Black, a junior, and Johnson, a senior, meet Darci Johnson and Julia Runge of St. James. And Faehnrich, a senior, and Paulson, a junior, meets Alyssa Carlson and Mary Kading of Park Rapids.
Emily Zondervan of Willmar posted a personal-best 1:15.39 in winning the 100 breaststroke in the Cardinals' non-conference swimming and diving loss to Marshall on Tuesday in Willmar.
It was incorrectly listed in Wednesday's paper that she finished second in that race.
Zondervan also paired with Liz Gorans, Ashley Alvarado and Alissa Tinklenberg to win the 400 freestyle relay in 4:03.20.