ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Football: NLS knows about the Royals

New London-Spicer opened the season with a wild loss to Watertown-Mayer. The two meet in the state Class AAA semifinals with a Prep Bowl berth on the line.

NLS Wildcats vs. Pierz 102922.004.jpg
Wildcats senior split end Brycen Christensen looks to make a stiff arm play during a Section 6AAA playoffs game against the Pierz Pioneers on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, at New London-Spicer High School in New London.
Michael Lyne / West Central Tribune
We are part of The Trust Project.

MINNEAPOLIS — After defeating a familiar opponent in the Class AAA quarterfinals, the New London-Spicer Wildcats will take on another familiar foe Saturday in the semifinals.

With a trip to the state championship on the line, the Wildcats face the Watertown-Mayer Royals at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Related Stories:
Prep boys basketball report for Jan. 30, 2023, in west central Minnesota. Cardinals shoot 38.1% from the field compared to the Tigers' 59.3%
Girls basketball report for Friday, Jan. 27, 2023, in west central Minnesota. Jaguars hold off Sauk Centre 46-41 before a packed house in Belgrade
Prep boys basketball report for Friday, Jan. 27, 2023, in west central Minnesota. Jaguars edge Mainstreeters 59-57 in a matchup of state-ranked teams
The teams meet at 7 p.m. Feb. 2 and the winner likely will be the favorite in the Section 3AA-North playoffs

"Obviously the biggest problem is they're good. And, of course, if you're in the state semifinals, everybody's good," NLS head coach Chad Gustafson said of the Royals. "We're looking forward to competing at a high level against them and we have the can-do, never-give-up attitude."

NLS and Watertown-Mayer met on Sept. 9. The Royals secured a 38-36 victory after senior Ashton Hecksel hit a 47-yard game-winning field goal.

A kicking weapon like Hecksel and a weather-controlled game environment brings comfort to Watertown-Mayer head coach Andrew Phillips' Royals.

ADVERTISEMENT

NLS v Holy Family FB 006.jpg
The Wildcats bring down a member of the Holy Family Catholic High School during a Homecoming matchup against Holy Family Catholic High School in New London on Friday, September 16, 2022.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

"If we get within the 25-yard line, we got a chance to get points on the board. It is really comforting for me as a coach," Phillips said. "I know that for our players too, that gives them a peace of mind."

In the Sept. 8 game, it was a tale of two different offenses.

NLS sophomore quarterback Blake Schultz threw for more than 300 yards with five touchdowns. Royals senior running back Wyatt McCabe ran for more 190 yards and four touchdowns and senior quarterback Albert Rundell also found the end zone with his legs once. Rundell is a three-year starter.

"Blake had a tremendous game all in just his second varsity start," Gustafson said. "McCabe's much like Jack Schoenborn from Milaca. He's very quick and can cut very well. ... Rundell can throw the ball all over the place. It makes them tough to defend."

Gustafson and Phillips mentioned how this time around, their teams need to minimize big plays on defense.

NLS v Holy Family FB 001.jpg
Wildcats senior Gabe Rohman runs into the end zone to score a touchdown the opening quater of a Homecoming matchup against Holy Family Catholic High School in New London on Friday, September 16, 2022.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

"Our defense has played championship winning football (lately)," Gustafson said of his defense that has allowed 34 points in three post-season games. "I can't say enough good things about how well they have played against some very good teams down the stretch. ... We can't give them a lot of big plays."

NLS surged to an early 14-0 lead against Watertown-Mayer in the Sept. 8 game. Schultz found senior split end Gabe Rohman for an 88-yard touchdown and senior split end Brycen Christensen for a 30-yard touchdown.

All five of Schultz's passing touchdowns went for more than 10 or more yards.

ADVERTISEMENT

More by Michael Lyne:
The Otters slow down the Cardinals, 4-0
Prep hockey report for Monday, Jan. 30, 2023, in west central Minnesota. Ben Swanson makes 25 saves in Fergus Falls’ 4-0 Central Lakes Conference win at Willmar
Willmar beats the Minnesota Loons 9-6 on four 3rd-period goals
Yellowjackets shoot 55.7% from the field to beat Warriors' men

"The biggest thing for us to be successful Saturday is we have to — number one — limit their big plays," Phillips said. "(NLS) has big play potential. ... They put you in a a lot of difficult positions."

In what Gustafson is anticipating to be a low-scoring affair, he wants his team to be more consistent and take care of the football on offense against a Watertown-Mayer team that is big up front.

NLS Wildcats vs. Pierz 102922.005.jpg
Wildcats junior defensive back Ethan Holme hits Pierz quarterback Garrett Cummings as he throws during a Section 6AAA playoffs game against the Pierz Pioneers on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, at New London-Spicer High School in New London.
Michael Lyne / West Central Tribune

"We're just looking for more consistency on some of our drives — we make some good plays and then we stub our toe," Gustafson said. "They're very big up front, so we'll have to really work on our blocking scheme to be able to move the ball on them."

Phillips named seniors Joey Meier, Jason Fenske, Ian Burau and Nick Anderstrom as key contributors for the Royals. All four play on the defensive line and all but Burau are apart of the offensive line.

"They are as good of a defensive line unit as we've had in my five years here. They've done a really great job," Phillips said. "Those are some guys that have really led us to where we're at."

Gustafson and thbe Wildcats look to make the state championship for the first time since 2014.

"We're just super excited to be playing at U.S. Bank Stadium," Gustafson said. "Now it feels like the state tournament. We're looking forward to a great crowd. We're going to give it our all and see where it falls."

NLS v Holy Family FB 003.jpg
The New London-Spicer student section erupts after the Wildcats scored an early touchdown during a Homecoming matchup against Holy Family Catholic High School in New London on Friday, September 16, 2022.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

For a Royals team that went 0-9 when their 18 seniors were freshmen, they look to close out their high school careers on a high note.

ADVERTISEMENT

"It sure has been a journey. It has even been a journey this season," Phillips said. "For them to be here, it's pretty amazing when you sit back and look at it."

The winner between NLS and Watertown-Mayer advances to the Class AAA state championship and competes against the winner between Fairmont and Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton at 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3, at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Michael Lyne joined the West Central Tribune as a sports reporter in May 2022, following his graduation from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, where he graduated with a bachelors degree in journalism and a minor degree in Spanish studies.

You may reach Michael at mlyne@wctrib.com, or by calling (320) 214-4345.
What To Read Next
Girls basketball report for Monday, Jan. 30, 2023, in west central Minnesota. Bluejays grab a 29-19 halftime lead on their way to the Camden North win over the Fighting Saints
Prep girls gymnastics reports for Sunday, Jan. 29, 2023, in west central Minnesota. True Team measures a team's depth
Prep wrestling report for Sunday, Jan. 29, 2023, in west central Minnesota. Tate Link takes first place at 182 pounds
Prep hockey report for Sunday, Jan. 29, 2023, in west central Minnesota. Willmar girls hockey surrenders an early lead to lose 3-1 to Mound-Westonka/SWC