Prep football: High-powered Paynesville ready for state quarters
Paynesville's second-straight trip to the Class AA state tournament is no surprise. Especially after their Section 5AA tournament.
The Bulldogs outscored Eden Valley-Watkins and Minnewaska 102-0 in their two section tournament games to clinch a state berth. They look as good as ever and Pillager is the team trying to slow down the machine that is the Bulldogs.
The Class AA quarterfinal game is set for a 7 p.m. kickoff Friday in Alexandria.
Pillager enters the tournament with a 10-1 record and an eight-game winning streak, including three wins in the Section 6AA tournament. While Paynesville dominated in their section tournament, the Huskies recorded wins of 26-6 over Staples-Motley, 28-7 against Morris/Chokio-Alberta and 30-16 against Osakis in the section championship. The margin of victory isn't jaw-dropping but Pillager has proven to be a consistent two-way team all season, holding opponents to single digits in seven games so far this year. The Huskies average 38.5 points per game on offense while holding opponents to just 14.1 points per game, a number which is skewed by a 50-22 loss to Otter Tail Central.
Pillager runs a double tight, double wing offense with a solid balance between the run game and airing it out. During the regular season, quarterback Erik Peterson threw for 985 yards and 15 touchdowns with a 52.4 completion percentage and just five interceptions. Tucker Peterson, however, is the Huskies' biggest threat. He averaged 10 yards per carry with 824 yards and 11 touchdowns as a running back and led the team with 234 receiving yards and four touchdowns with just 13 catches.
The Petersons aren't alone either. Luke Woidyla is the main ball carrier for the Huskies and ran for 644 yards and nine touchdowns during the regular season. In the section final against Osakis, Woidyla was the star, carrying the ball 13 times for 140 yards and two touchdowns. He also wrapped up the regular season with 53 tackles, second-most on the team, and a pair of interceptions.
The key for the Bulldogs will be to slow down the run game, something Paynesville has largely done well this season. Erik Peterson is more of a break-in-case-of-emergency type quarterback, using big pass plays to push the defense back. Peterson threw the ball just five times in the section final, completing two for 20 yards.
Paynesville's two losses this season came to BOLD and Pierz, the latter of which almost exclusively ran the ball. The Bulldogs allowed 1,486 yards on the ground so far but 407 of those came against Pierz, an entrant in the Class AAA state tournament.
In fact, Paynesville and Pillager combined for three losses, all to other state tournament teams. Pillager's lone loss came at the hands of Otter Tail Central, who will take on BOLD at noon Saturday in Alexandria.
Even if Pillager can figure out Paynesville's defense, who hasn't allowed a point since Oct. 17, the Bulldogs offense is not one with which to be trifled. Paynesville outgained their opponents 5,118 to 2,478 and scored 47 rushing touchdowns with 22 passing touchdowns.
Third-year quarterback Max Weidner leads a star-studded offense, completing 57 percent of his passed for 1,478 yards and 20 touchdowns with just four interceptions. He also has 559 rushing yards and 10 rushing touchdowns to his credit but the two-headed rushing attack of Zach Schroeder and Daltin Christinsen will also give the Huskies fits. Schroeder leads the team with 1,267 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns and Christinsen has made the most of his 76 carries with 806 yards (10.61 yards per carry) and 11 touchdowns.
Stopping the run game will be imperative for the Bulldogs if they want to keep pressure off their high-octane offense. Pillager has one of the better defenses Paynesville has faced all season but the Bulldogs certainly will have the best offense the Huskies have faced all year, too.