Prep Football: Bulldogs turnover Eagles
PAYNESVILLE — Paynesville is known for its offense but it was the defense who helped decide Saturday's Section 5AA semifinal match against Eden Valley-Watkins.
The Bulldogs pulled in seven turnovers to take a 32-22 victory over the fifth-seeded Eagles and move on to the section final against Holdingford.
Paynesville set the tone early by recovering a squib kick to start the game, followed by a quick one-yard touchdown run by quarterback Max Weidner to take an early 6-0 lead. Moments later, Eden Valley-Watkins fumbled the ball on a high snap, giving the Bulldogs the ball on the four yard line. Luke Johnson took it two yards for a touchdown to give the home team a 12-0 lead.
The high snap proved to be a major problem later, as well. Eden Valley-Watkins intercepted a pass by Weidner, his third for the day, on their own two yard line trailing 20-16 with 4:51 remaining and a game-winning drive on the mind. That thought quickly vanished, though, when Grant Ludwig recovered another high snap, this time in the end zone to turn the tables and extend the lead to 26-16.
Paynesville's Zach Schroeder, who was bottled up for most of the game, added an 86-yard touchdown run later in the quarter to give his team a 32-16 lead. He finished the game with 136 rushing yards on 20 carries.
"Defensively, they did a great job limiting big plays for us," Paynesville head coach Max Meagher said. "We never really got any big plays. We knew that if they scored we weren't able to get big chunks and we couldn't grind it out like we normally do."
Eden Valley-Watkins, on the other hand, was able to get a few big plays but were often ultimately stymied by Paynesville's defense. Quarterback Luke Jansen, who finished 23-of-47 for 339 passing yards, hit wide receiver Josh Streit for a would-be 54-yard passing touchdown following Ludwig's fumble recovery for a touchdown but Levi Bast snuck in at the eight-yard line and stripped the ball for a fumble to flip the script once again.
Despite allowing 339 yards in the air, Meagher said his team's defensive plan worked just about as well as expected.
"Our plan was to force them to pass, which sounds really odd, I know," Meagher said. "We had to make them one-dimensional so we tried to make them pass it. They did get some big plays but we were able to hold them to 17 yards rushing, too. They passed it because they had to, not because they wanted to."
The Eagles grabbed a touchdown with one second remaining to give the game the 32-22 scoreline.
With the win, the Bulldogs now move on to the Section 5AA final against Holdingford, who pulled off upset victories over ACGC in the opening round and Minnewaska in Saturday's semifinal match. The section final will kick off at 7 p.m. Friday at St. John's University in Collegeville.
Paynesville 32, EVW 22
EVW (6-4) 0 8 0 14 — 22
Paynesville (9-1) 12 0 8 12 — 32
P — Max Weidner 1 run (2-pt. PAT failed)
P — Luke Johnson 2 run (2-pt. PAT failed)
E — Dominic Schlangen 1 run (Jamison Kuechle pass from Luke Jansen)
P — Levi Bast 9 pass from Max Weidner (Bast pass from Weidner)
E — Kuechle 2 run (Kuechle run)
P — Grant Ludwig fumble return (2-pt. PAT failed)
P — Zach Schroeder 86 run (2-pt. PAT failed)
E — Justin Streit 14 pass from Jansen (2-pt. PAT failed)
First downs: 21 ... Penalties: 5-36 ... Rushing (Individual and team): Jamison Kuechle 11-30, Dominic Schlangen 11-6, Jansen 2-(-5). 27-17 ... Passing (Individual and team): Luke Jansen 23-47-339-3. 23-47-339-3 ... Receiving (Individual and team): Justin Streit 15-200, Kuechle 5-81, Josh Streit 1-46, Carson Geislinger 2-12. 23-339 ... Interceptions: names not available 3 ... Fumble recoveries: names not available 2 ... Tackles (solo-assist): NA ... QB sacks: NA
First downs: 18 ... Penalties: 6-17 ... Rushing (Individual and team): Zach Schroeder 20-136, Max Weidner 24-101, Jake Arnold 7-24, Levi Bast 3-15, Luke Johnson 1-2. 56-276 ... Passing (Individual and team): Weidner 6-17-43-3. 6-17-43-3 ... Receiving (Individual and team): Sam Oehrlein 3-19, Bast 2-17, Grant Ludwig 1-7. 6-43 ... Interceptions: Oehrlein 1, Bast 1, Schroeder 1 ... Fumble recoveries: Johnson 1, Ludwig 1, Bast 1, Jared Campbell 1 ... Tackles (solo-assist): NA ... QB sacks: NA