Chatfield stuffs JCC in state quarterfinals
Chatfield football coach Jeff Johnson had been waiting for this.
On Friday night, with stakes the highest they've been all season, Gophers fullback Alex Bradt delivered.
The 175-pound junior turned in his most productive rushing game of the season. He galloped and churned for 124 yards on 14 carries, including an opening-drive 63-yard sprint up the middle for a touchdown, as Chatfield buried Jackson County Central 32-6.
It came in the quarterfinal round of the state Class AA tournament at Rochester Regional Sports Stadium. It pushed the 11-1 and No. 9-ranked Gophers into the semifinals, where they will meet the Hawley/Holdingford winner next Friday at 11:30 a.m. in the Metrodome.
Jackson County Central, ranked seventh, finished 10-2.
"Bradt was due for something like that," said Johnson, who has one of the best tailbacks in the area in senior Jacob Neis. "Bradt got those yards from trapping plays up front. We had scrimmaged Jackson County Central early in the year, and we had success with those same traps."
Chatfield has had success all season with a mixture of runs and passes. The running had mostly been done by Neis, who'd dashed for 1,438 yards and 23 touchdowns coming into the game.
Quarterback Nate Skare had thrown for just over 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns.
On Friday, their numbers were way down. Neis — who drew massive attention from Jackson Country Central — managed just 28 yards rushing. Skare attempted just seven passes, completing three of them for 41 yards and one 22-yard touchdown to star tight end Jayme LaPlante.
So, with Neis being hounded, the Gophers went with what worked. And that was handing the ball off to the determined Bradt, who also showed good speed.
For his production, Bradt gave the credit to Neis and his strong offensive line.
"Our guys blocked really good, and Neis is so good that they have to key on him all the time," said Bradt, who recorded his first 100-yard rushing game of the season. "(Jackson County Central) was blitzing off the edge all the time. And that really opened things up the middle for me."
Chatfield was making its first state appearance since 1999. Jackson County Central was here for the second straight year, and fell in the state semifinals last season.
But it was the Gophers who played like the playoff veterans. Besides showing off a running attack that produced 195 yards, it was even better on defense.
The Huskies have one of the tougher running attacks in state Class AA, led by a pair of Moores who refuse to go down without being gang tackled — brothers Keegan and Paden. Keegan was the biggest concern, with 1,262 yards rushing and 20 touchdowns coming in.
Keegan showed off his fight and strength, all right.
"I've got to give him a lot of credit," said LaPlante, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound linebacker/tight end, and a Division I prospect. "He's really tough to bring down."
But Chatfield did it's job. Every yard that both Moores managed was hard earned. Keegan finished with 117 yards rushing, but needed 26 carries to do it. Paden had 38 yards on 10 carries.
"We won this game because we all work hard, and we all play together and finish off plays," LaPlante said.
Nowhere was that more evident than on defense. Chatfield's biggest play of the night came just into the fourth quarter when it stuffed Jackson County Central on fourth-and-2 from the Chatfield 22. It put a stop to a 17-play grind-it-out drive.
It also took the life and much of the drama out of the game, as Chatfield owned a 19-6 lead at the time. The Gophers had scored on their first series of the second half, just after LaPlante forced a Huskies fumble that Chatfield recovered at the Jackson Country Central 15.
Chatfield wasn't done with highlights after that fourth-down defensive stop deep in its end, though. Still left was a 46-yard punt by Skare that pinned the Huskies at their own 3-yard line. One play later, LaPlante hit quarterback Shadrach Wacker from behind in the Huskies' end zone. Wacker coughed the ball up and Chatfield lineman Dalton Schwier hopped on it for a touchdown.
The Gophers then punctuated things seconds later, with A.J. Riley picking off Wacker at the Huskies' 45 and racing in untouched for a touchdown.
STATE 1AA QUARTERFINALS
Chatfield 32, Jackson CC 6
C — Alex Bradt 63 run (kick failed), 9:56.
Drive: 5 plays, 63 yards, 2:04.
JCC — Shadrach Wacker 6 run (kick failed), 3:18.
Drive: 9 plays, 73 yards, 3:16. Key:Keegan Moore 28 run.
C — Jayme LaPlante 22 pass from Nate Skare (pass failed), :40.
Drive: 6 plays, 52 yards, 2:32.
C — Jacob Neis 5 run (Sawyer Prinsen kick), 9:23.
Drive: 4 plays, 15 yards, 1:42. Key:Ben Pierce 8 pass from Skare.
C — Dalton Schwier fumble recover in end zone (pass failed), 5:50.
C — A.J. Riley 45 interception return (Prinsen kick), 5:29.
I NDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
Jackson County Central — Keegan Moore 26-117, Paden Moore 10-38, Shadrach Wacker 8-28, Luke Norland 3-7, Darnell Taylor-Breck 1-(minus 1). Chatfield —Jake Neis 13-28, Nate Skare 6-21, Alex Bradt 14-124, Alex Haffner 6-22.
Jackson County Central — Wacker 0 completions, 6 attempts, 1 interception, 0 touchdowns, for 0 yards . Chatfield —Nate Skare 3-7-1-1, for 41 yards.
Jackson County Central —None. Chatfield —Drew Hurley 1-11 Jayme LaPlante 1-22, Ben Pierce 1-8.