DODGE CENTER — There’s only one thing that matters this time of year.
“As long as you have more points than the other team, you’re good,” Triton High School football coach Mike Ellingson said. “I think that’s the name of the game when it comes to the playoffs.”
He’s right, of course. It’s win-or-go-home time now.
And in the end, his fourth-seeded Cobras did indeed preserve their season Tuesday with a Section 1AA quarterfinal victory over fifth-seeded St. Charles. In what was the eighth meeting of these two programs over the last five seasons, the Cobras prevailed 30-28.
In truth, they held on for dear life down the stretch.
But does that really matter?
“We’re just glad that we survived and advanced,” Triton senior quarterback Owen Petersohn said. “The scoreboard is what it is. As long as you get the win, that’s all that matters in the playoffs.”
Hard to argue with his logic. The Cobras will indeed take on No. 9-ranked and top-seeded Chatfield in the section semifinals on Saturday.
But St. Charles gave the Cobras all they could handle in the quarterfinals.
“We’ve had our share of battles with them the last few years,” Ellingson said.
After falling behind by two touchdowns late in the first half, the Saints found themselves still trailing by a two-score deficit late in the third quarter. Triton senior running back Braxton Munnikhuysen had just reeled off the biggest run of the night to that point, a 51-yard touchdown, to make it 30-16 Cobras.
That’s when the Saints offense, and special teams, took over.
Following Munnikhuysen’s 51-yarder, St. Charles responded immediately, rattling off an 11-play scoring drive to make it a one-score game. Senior running back Noah Disbrow, who finished with a team-high 125 rushing yards on 21 carries, capped the drive with an 11-yard touchdown run, his second TD of the game.
Moments later, the Saints recovered an onside kick attempt, but then saw their ensuing drive stall at the Triton 1-yard line with 2:46 to play in regulation. The Cobras, it seemed, had been saved by their defense.
But three plays later, Munnikhuysen — who led all rushers with 167 yards on 15 attempts — fumbled the ball right back to the Saints, who recovered possession at the Triton 9-yard line before scoring another touchdown three plays later.
Unfortunately for the Saints, their resulting two-point conversion attempt, which they desperately needed to tie the game, failed.
Yet even then, they weren’t finished. The Saints recovered their ensuing onside-kick attempt, but saw their resulting drive sputter from the get-go.
“We just played harder in the second half. We didn’t change anything else,” St. Charles coach Matt Reinhardt said. “Defensively, I mean they got us on the long run. Nice counter, which they’re going to get us on. But we played the option a lot better in the second half, and it was nothing we did differently. We played a little bit harder, took up blockers a little bit better. Our kids have answered that way in the second half of games all season.”
St. Charles senior running back Jett Thoreson submitted a tough-running effort in his prep sendoff, tallying 89 hard-earned yards on a game-high 25 carries. Sophomore quarterback Owen Maloney also served admirably in lieu of injured starter Brady Koeppel, tallying 46 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries.
Junior running back Owen Garness racked up 61 rushing yards for the Cobras on five carries, four of which featured runs of at least 11 yards. Garness also recorded the game’s lone passing touchdown, a halfback-option pass that found senior Noah Thomas late in the first half to stretch Triton’s first two-score lead of the night.
The Cobras still have work to do, Ellingson said.
But again, more than anything, his team is simply happy to be moving on.
“I think we need to keep working on putting together a full four quarters of football,” Ellingson said. “I think we got into trouble with penalties tonight, things like that; I got one myself, as well. So not ideal. And the fumbles that we had toward the end there and those kinds of things really put us in a spot that we really didn’t need to be in tonight. I think we just have to keep better track of the ball and let the rest take care of itself from there.”
TRITON 30, ST. CHARLES 28
SC 0-8-0-8-12 — 28
TRI 7-15-8-0 — 30
TRI — Owen Petersohn 5 run (Guadalupe Martinez kick), 3:49.
SC — Noah Disbrow 49 run (Blake Neumann pass from Owen Maloney), 8:59.
TRI — Braxton Munnikhuysen 8 run (Weston Thomas pass from Petersohn), 4:49.
TRI — Noah Thomas 11 pass from Owen Garness (Martinez kick), 0:52.
SC — Maloney 8 run (Connor Lemmer pass from Maloney), 5:51.
TRI — Munnikhuysen 51 run (Noah Thomas run), 2:36.
SC — Disbrow 11 run (pass failed), 8:47.
SC — Maloney 3 run (pass failed), 1:00.
RUSHING: SC — Disbrow 21-125, Jett Thoreson 25-89, Maloney 10-46, Henry Davidson 1-1; TRI — Munnixhuysen 15-167, Garness 5-61, Petersohn 8-47, Noah Thomas 1-8.
PASSING: SC — Maloney 5-7-0-57, Thoreson 1-1-0-39; TRI — Petersohn 0-4-1-0, Garness 1-1-0-11.
RECEIVING: SC — Kaleb Schultz Schweitzer 1-39, Davidson 3-39, Blake Neumann 1-14, Thoreson 1-3; TRI — Noah Thomas 1-11.