Football: Paynesville shines brightly against Sauk Centre
Bulldogs secure a 22-14 win over Mainstreeters after halftime adjustment
PAYNESVILLE — It wasn’t under the Friday night lights, but Paynesville found a way to outshine Sauk Centre.
Tied 14-14 at halftime, the Bulldogs shut out the Mainstreeters in the final 24 minutes. And with a seven-yard touchdown run by Grayson Fuchs with 5 minutes, 39 seconds to play, Paynesville secured a 22-14 Mid State 2 District victory on Friday afternoon.
The Bulldogs had revenge on their minds after losing 43-26 to Sauk Centre in 2021.
“Last year, we came there and thought we’d get the easy win and they ended up beating us by almost 20 points,” said Paynesville senior quarterback/defensive back Grayson Fuchs. “This year, we took it personal, we did our work and it showed out.”
The game time was changed due to problems with the lights at the football field. Paynesville Activities Director Rick Hendrickson said the lights are dealing with a high-voltage issue and blown fuses. The school hopes to have the lights ready for the Bulldogs’ homecoming game on Oct. 7.
At halftime, Paynesville’s goal was clear: shut down Jay Neubert. In the first half, the 6-foot-2 junior hauled in eight catches for 96 yards and a pair of touchdowns. His second score came with a second left before the break.
“We played more cover-4 and man so we could slow it down and stop Neubert,” said Bulldogs senior defensive back/wide receiver Eli Nelson.
The adjustments worked as Neubert did not have a catch in the second half. The Mainstreeters had just three first downs. And when Sauk Centre did get down to the Paynesville 17-yard line, the Bulldogs forced quarterback Matthew Warring to throw an interception to Gus Johnson with 3:05 to play. Paynesville went on to run out the clock.
“That’s a tribute to my coaching staff; they really made some adjustments,” said Paynesville first-year head coach Tim Pattrin. “Ben (Borgerding) and Ron (Fuchs) made some great adjustments in the passing game and shut that down. We made some adjustments on the defensive line and were able to get on the quarterback a little bit more and give him less time to breathe.”
It wasn’t the only game-altering INT for the Bulldogs. Early in the second quarter, Nelson snagged a pick and got the ball to the Mainstreeters’ 30-yard line.
“We were just playing man and I undercut it,” Nelson said. “It was just a good play. (Warring) just left it out for me to get.”
After that play, Nelson made another with a 28-yard reception that put the ball on the 2-yard line. Fuchs ran it in on the next play for the first score.
And while Neubert had a big game for Sauk Centre, the Bulldogs also had their own aerial connection with Fuchs and receiver Max Athmann.
Facing fourth-and-6 at midfield, Fuchs hit Athmann for a 33-yard gain that put the ball at the Mainstreeters’ 18. Three plays later, Athmann found the end zone on a 16-yard reception.
Despite dealing with leg cramps late in the game, Athmann finished with six catches for 131 yards.
“(Fuchs and I) have been sticking together since seventh grade and he’s been my quarterback throughout middle school and high school,” Athmann said. “We got a great connection and great friendship.”
Fuchs added, “We’ve been best friends our whole lives so we’ve always had that connection between each other. If I need to get something big, I know where he’s going to go and I’m going to go at him.”
Over the first two games, Fuchs’ impact has been a case of either/or. He ran for 122 yards in the season opener against Melrose. Then last week against Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted, Fuchs threw for 306 yards.
On Friday, it was a balanced attack from Fuchs. He completed 72.2% of his passes for 206 yards. And he had a team-high 61 rushing yards on 25 carries.
“It’s funny, I’ve had to hold him back a few times when he comes over to the sideline and says ‘give me the ball,’” Pattrin said of his rapport with Fuchs. “Most of the time, yeah, but we have to try this a little bit, too. He’s doing great, he’s picked up the offense and he understands what we’re trying to do. Him and I are really starting to get a connection and that makes calling an offense pretty easy.”
There’s subtle changes to the Paynesville offense of previous years. The Bulldogs are utilizing wingbacks and tight ends, and are slowing down as opposed to the previous up-tempo, no-huddle scheme.
What has stayed the same is the breadth of playmakers Paynesville features.
“That’s the thing about coaching 9-man for as long as I did is you’re adapting your offenses or defenses all the time because you have such a swing with kids,” said Pattrin, who previously coached at Brandon-Evansville. “Over the years, I’ve developed a system that’s really adaptable.
“It’s an offense where we’re going to take what the defense gives us and with the players we have, it’s pick your poison. And we had some playmakers that really stepped up.”
Paynesville plays its next two games on the road, starting next Friday with Eden Valley-Watkins.
Paynesville 22, Sauk Centre 14
Sauk Centre (1-2) 0 14 0 0 — 14
Paynesville (2-1) 0 14 0 8 — 22
P – Grayson Fuchs 2 run (run failed)
SC – Jay Neubert 21 pass from Matthew Warring (Neubert kick)
P – Max Athmann 16 pass from Fuchs (Austin Pauls run)
SC – Neubert 5 pass from Warring (Neubert kick)
P – Fuchs 7 run (Gus Johnson pass from Fuchs)
First downs: 10 … Penalties: 2-10 … Rushing (Individual and team): Elijah Fletcher 12-61, Jay Neubert 1-(-1), Matthew Warring 4-(-23). Total: 17-37 … Passing (Individual and team): Warring 14-25-2 161 ... Receiving: Neubert 8-96, Fletcher 3-8, Hunter Danielson 3-57 … Interceptions: None … Fumble recoveries: Fletcher 1 … Tackles (solo-assist): n/a … QB sacks: Luke Fiedler 1, Carter Schuster 1/2, Hunter Dickinson 1/2
First downs: 15 … Penalties: 5-33 … Rushing (Individual and team): Austin Pauls 10-57, Max Athmann 1-(-1), Grayson Fuchs 25-61. Total: 36-117 … Passing (Individual and team): Fuchs 13-18-0 206 ... Receiving: Carter Lieser 2-21, Pauls 2-1, Eli Nelson 2-53, Athmann 6-131, Gus Johnson 1-15 … Interceptions: Nelson 1, Johnson 1 … Fumble recoveries: None … Tackles (solo-assist): n/a … QB sacks: Pauls 2, Bryce VanderBeek 1