STEWARTVILLE — Before the season, his expectations were admittedly measured.
“I knew we would be able to compete,” said Stewartville High School football coach Garrett Mueller. His team made the jump to full-time 4A this fall.
“Now, could I have predicted 6-0?” Mueller asked himself. He laughed.
That doesn’t mean Mueller didn’t have faith in his team, of course. After all, his fourth-ranked Tigers did, indeed, win their sixth consecutive game to start the season on homecoming night Friday, toppling No. 5 Kasson-Mantorville 28-21 in the Post Bulletin’s Game of the Week.
He's just happy to see his players playing up to their potential.
“It’s just a credit to these guys with how they’re just buying into everything that we ask them to do and putting themselves in a position to be successful,” Mueller said. “We’re just going to take it one step at a time and try to keep this train rolling.”
The engineer of Stewartville’s success Friday was senior quarterback Eli Klavetter, who shined brightest when the game was on the line.
Klavetter completed all but two of his passing attempts against the Komets, going 19 of 21 from the pocket for 222 yards and two touchdowns. He also finished the game with a streak of 16 consecutive pass completions still intact, never missing a passing target in the final three quarters.
“Eli’s an impressive kid,” Mueller said. “He does it in so many ways; great leader on and off the field, the way he executes in big games, the way he puts the ball where it needs to go. He guides our offense. He’s a great guy that our offense rallies around.”
The Tigers also rally around running back Alex Wood, who returned Friday from a multi-week ankle injury. His tough running balanced the Stewartville offense immediately.
The senior back carried six times on the Tigers’ opening drive, punching in a 1-yard touchdown to open the scoring midway through the first quarter.
That gave Klavetter the room he needed to operate in the pocket.
After completing three of his first five attempts, the Stewartville senior was perfect the rest of the way. He went 5 of 5 for 70 yards on the Tigers’ next scoring drive, capped by a 5-yard touchdown pass to senior Alex Larson. He then found senior Jacob Weightman in the waning moments of the first half for a 46-yard touchdown to send Stewartville into halftime up by two scores.
“They’re a great offensive team,” K-M coach Joel Swanson said. “They’re averaging 40-something points per game, no doubt about it. We made some adjustments in things on both sides of the ball, and they were still moving it because they’re a good ball club.
“We believe we are, too, and we’ll just get back at it and try to improve. I’m proud of my guys, and they kept battling.”
The Komets were never out of it, honestly.
Senior quarterback Matthew Donovan was the unquestioned catalyst for K-M, as his hand was involved in all three of the Komets’ touchdowns. Donovan found senior Gavin Giesler for a 25-yard strike — capping a lightning-quick, two-play scoring drive — to level the score at 7-7 late in the first quarter.
Then after falling behind by two scores at the half, Donovan led a 12-play scoring drive for K-M late in the third, chewing up nearly six minutes before an 8-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-goal brought the Komets back within a touchdown.
“That’s two games in a row where we’ve been down by 14 and we’ve found a way to battle back,” Swanson said. “That’s a good thing as you get toward the end of the year. I like that.
“To me, that’s what a lot of what high school sports is, anyway. Anyone can feel comfortable when they’re winning and stuff. It’s what you can do and how you respond when you’re losing. What do you do? That’s a life lesson. That’s why I coach, man.”
But the Tigers responded to Donovan’s touchdown immediately.
And again, remember: Klavetter literally didn’t miss after the first quarter.
He was 6 of 6 for 40 yards on the Tigers’ ensuing drive, which ended with his third touchdown pass of the night and second to Weightman, this time from 16 yards out with 9:21 remaining in the fourth. Weightman finished with 112 yards on eight catches. Larson hauled in four catches for 83.
“I’m really glad that we’re winning,” Klavetter said. “I tell my guys all the time, I could throw one pass all game, it doesn’t matter. As long as we’re winning I’m happy about it. The standard is just to go out there and see what the game gives us.”
A winning recipe through six weeks, to be sure. 6-0. It’s all on the table for the Tigers now.
And yet, there’s only one thing on their mind.
“Yeah, just Winona,” said Mueller. He laughed again.
“Sorry, I know that’s the boring answer,” he said. “Honestly, if I said anything different, it would be different than what I tell these kids every single day.”
Makes sense when you listen to his quarterback.
“I agree that we have set ourselves up well, but we have to worry about winning next week. That’s it,” Klavetter said. “We’ll deal with the other stuff as it comes.”
NOTES: Donovan capped the scoring late in the fourth quarter with another rushing touchdown. He finished with 52 yards on 16 attempts. K-M senior Anthony Moe-Tucker led the Komets with 74 yards on eight carries. … The Tigers’ third touchdown was set up by sophomore Ayden Helder, who intercepted a third-down offering from Donovan midway through the second quarter. Three plays later, Weightman was running in from 46 yards out to make it 21-7 Tigers. … Stewartville wraps up the district portion of its regular season next week at Winona, while the Komets host struggling Red Wing.
NO. 4 STEWARTVILLE 28, NO. 5 KASSON-MANTORVILLE 21
KM 7-0-7-7 — 21
S 7-14-0-7 — 28
S — Alex Wood 1 run (Parker Wangen kick), 7:40.
KM — Gavin Giesler 25 pass from Matthew Donovan (Alex Donovan kick), 2:14.
S — Alex Larson 5 pass from Eli Klavetter (Wangen kick), 11:55.
S — Jacob Weightman 46 pass from Klavetter (Wangen kick).
KM — Matthew Donovan 8 run (Alex Donovan kick), 2:43.
S — Weightman 16 pass from Klavetter (Wangen kick), 9:21.
KM — Matthew Donovan 4 run (Alex Donovan kick), 2:09.
S — KM
First downs 19 — 18
Total net yards 316 — 340
Rushes-yards 23-94 — 45-257
Comp.-att.-int. 19-21-0 — 4-11-1
Fumbles-lost 0-0 — 1-1
Penalties-yds. 1-15 — 3-20
Punts-avg. 3-37 — 2-30
S — Wood 18-86, Klavetter 2-8, Team 3-0; KM — Anthony Moe-Tucker 8-74, Matthew Donovan 16-52, Giesler 7-48, Broc Barwald 6-38, Michael Hoff 4-35, Emmett Ricke 1-9, Kyle Nelson 1-3, Dominic Mann 1-2, Evan Snow 1-minus 4.
S — Klavetter 19-21-0-222; KM — Matthew Donovan 4-11-1-83.
S — Weightman 8-112, Larson 4-83, Owen Sikkink 3-11, Wood 2-8, Henry Tschetter 2-8; KM — Aidan Smith 1-30, Giesler 1-25, Easton Suess 1-21, Hoff 1-7.