Six area football teams one step from state

Six area football teams remain in contention for a berth in the state tournament. Two games are slated for today: Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City plays Eden Valley-Watkins in the Section 5AA championship at 7 p.m. at St. Cloud State University and Kerk...

Six area football teams remain in contention for a berth in the state tournament.

Two games are slated for today: Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City plays Eden Valley-Watkins in the Section 5AA championship at 7 p.m. at St. Cloud State University and Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg plays Wabasso at 3 p.m. in the Section 5A championship at the Fargodome in Fargo, N.D.

On Friday, New London-Spicer and Litchfield square off in the Section 6AAA title tilt at 5 p.m. at St. Cloud State. MACCRAY and Morris will meet for the Section 5AA championship at 5:30 p.m. at the Fargodome.

The Friday match-ups will be previewed in Friday's paper.

Section 5A


KMS vs. Wabasso

Today at Fargodome

For the past three years Section 5 has been represented in the Class A State Tournament by either Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg or Wabasso. This season will be no different.

Both standing at 8-2, top-seeded KMS and No. 2 Wabasso -- the defending champion -- will square off today at 3 p.m. at the Fargodome in the Section 5A championship. The winner will play at the Section 7A champion (Barnum or Cook County) next Friday in the quarterfinals of the state tournament.

"We're very similar teams," said KMS coach James Cortez, whose squad has won eight straight after opening the season with two losses. "We're both willing to run the whole game if we could and we'll take chances in the passing game."

The Fighting Saints might not take a lot of chances through the air since sophomore quarterback Kevin Steinhaus won't be playing after he injured his ankle in the semifinals. With 1,015 passing yards, Steinhaus is the first KMS signal-caller to throw for over 1,000 yards since Jed Nelson in 1999.

KMS could have its hands full trying to contain the speedy Rabbits as Wabasso has scored 65 points in both of its postseason wins. Of the 20 touchdowns Wabasso has accumulated in the playoffs, 14 have come on the ground, including five by senior fullback Mitchell Altermatt in the semifinals.

The Fighting Saints had no problems piling up points in the regular season (34 ppg), but during the playoffs their offense hasn't been firing on all cylinders, scoring only 33 points in two games. The Rabbits have posted three shutouts and are allowing only 8.6 ppg.


"We haven't finished drives and are stalling out," said Cortez. "It's a big deal for us now. We have ran the ball well, but we just can't finish."


After not producing a 1,000-yard rusher for the first time in recent memory last season, KMS can add another name -- possibly two -- to that list. Freshman running back Joel Bauman has rushed for 1,096 yards and 11 TDs on 199 carries while junior fullback Mark Skoglund has amassed 949 yards and 12 TDs on only 113 carries.

Wabasso also features two-headed rushing attack with Altermatt (nine TDs) and senior running back Daniel Riley (seven TDs) sharing the duties.

Section 5AA

ACGC vs. EV-Watkins

Today at St. Cloud State

Even though it was returning only two starters from the 2005 Class AA state champion team, many fans expected Eden Valley-Watkins to make another run at the title. The only team standing in its way at returning to the state tournament is a confident Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City squad.


It will be a repeat from the 2004 Section 5AA final when top-seeded Eden Valley-Watkins (9-1) and No. 3 ACGC (7-3) meet at 7 p.m. today at St. Cloud State University. The Eagles won that game two years ago before losing to Pierz in the Prep Bowl.

"We respect them, but we're not intimidated," said ACGC junior fullback Nic Leither, who has scored 11 touchdowns and rushed for 464 yards. "They have a lot of speed and quickness on the lines, but we're not really intimidated."

After losing three of their final four regular-season games, the Falcons have forced eight turnovers in the postseason and allowed only 171 yards of total offense in both wins. On the other side of the ball, the ACGC offense hasn't committed a turnover while piling up over 500 yards.

"We've got our game going," said Leither. "Our defense is playing very well of late, especially our secondary."

The Falcons will have their hands full trying to contain senior Paul Stommes and junior Jerrod Nohner, two running backs that are a focal point in the Eagles' attack.

The only team to get the best of Eden Valley-Watkins this year has been unbeaten Pierz, its Central Minnesota Conference rival that topped the final Class AA Associated Press poll.


Despite missing three games to a broken thumb, Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City sophomore running back Kurtis Huisman still leads the area with 1,097 rushing yards. Huisman has gained 264 yards in the Falcons' two playoff wins and has a 270-yard game to his credit earlier this season.


Nohner (321-3) and Stommes (247-4) have combined to rush for 568 yards and seven touchdowns in two postseason games for the Eagles.

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