MINNETONKA — The Rochester Lourdes football team is built for this time of year.
As playmaker Pat Leary put it, Lourdes loves to “ground-and-pound” opponents into submission, using lengthy, run-heavy, clock-eating drives to control the pace of the game and keep opposing offenses off the field.
And Saturday at Hopkins High School, that’s exactly what the Eagles did against Jordan during the Class AAA state quarterfinals.
The Eagles forced five Jordan turnovers, controlled time of possession and held in check one of the state’s most potent offenses. It all added up to a 24-0 Lourdes victory and a trip to the Class AAA state semifinals at U.S. Bank Stadium.
The Eagles face top-ranked Pierz at 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 17, with a trip to the Prep Bowl on the line.
In Saturday’s quarterfinals on a frigid day, with the temperature hovering around 16 degrees, the Eagles knew they needed to be nearly perfect to slow down the Hubmen.
“We’d been hearing all week about their offense and all the great players they had, and they did have fantastic players,” Leary said. “But we were just able to execute our scheme very well and play good defense.”
Weather certainly was not in favor of Jordan’s spread offense, which features four- and five-receiver sets. Standout quarterback Bryce Sievers had trouble finding his favorite targets all game.
Sievers came into the contest with more than 2,900 yards passing and more than 30 touchdowns. But Lourdes held him to a season-low 118 yards passing, with no touchdowns and four interceptions. Leary had two interceptions, while safety Trey Billmeier had the other two.
Elite receivers Ryan Samuelson and Marlon Wiley came into the game having combined for more than 100 receptions and more than 2,000 yards.
On Saturday, Lourdes held them to a combined five catches for 20 yards.
“I can’t say enough good things about our defense,” Lourdes coach Mike Kesler said. “I think our guys were sick and tired of hearing me talk about their offense all week. But our defense played lights-out. They were locked in all week. I talked about (Jordan) a lot, because that’s a heckuva football team. We just made a lot of plays, made some big fourth-down stops, got the turnovers we needed and capitalized when the opportunities came.”
The Lourdes defense rushed four down linemen all afternoon, committing seven players to the passing game. But the front four got to Sievers often. Senior end Mark Ustby delivered 2.5 sacks, and Riley Schaefer also had two.
“We knew they had a strong offense, but our defense just played phenomenal (Saturday),” Ustby said. “Everyone pulled together and gave all they had, and that’s what it took to get it done.”
The game could have gone much differently had Jordan’s first drive not ended with a fumble.
Sievers marched his offense down the field on the opening drive, into a stiff, cold breeze. Sievers did most of the damage with his feet. After entering Lourdes territory, Sievers broke free for what looked like a lengthy touchdown run. But Sievers fumbled at the 1-yard line, and Lourdes jumped on the loose ball in the end zone.
“It was a big play for sure. Who knows what happens (if there’s no fumble),” Leary said. “We got down there and made a play and made sure they didn’t get the momentum.”
On Lourdes’ next possession, Leary lost a fumble. But only a few plays later, he took it back. Sievers threw the ball into the flat, but it went straight to Leary, who returned it 40 yards.
A few plays later, quarterback Matthew Hayford ran it in from 5 yards out, and Ben Limburg added the extra point for a 7-0 Lourdes lead with 5:16 left in the first quarter.
On Jordan’s next possession, Ustby came up with a huge sack on second down, forcing a third-and-long situation. The Hubmen couldn’t convert and were forced to punt deep in their own territory.
Hayford had a short return on the punt, and he was hit in the head on the play, which drew a 15-yard penalty and gave the Eagles great field position.
A few plays later, Jack Groteboer plowed into the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown run, giving Lourdes a 14-0 lead with 2:16 remaining in the first quarter.
The rest of the first half belonged to the Eagles. Though they didn’t add to their lead, they milked precious time off the clock, allowing them to take that 14-0 lead into halftime.
The third quarter was more of the same. The Eagles had two long, clock-eating drives, including one that ended with a 35-yard Limburg field goal into the wind. Kesler called that kick “huge” as it gave the Eagles a three-score lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Midway through the fourth, the Eagles got the ball back again, and this time they finally broke the big one. Zach Jungels did the damage, running up the left side of the Jordan defense for a 33-yard touchdown, icing the game and putting the Eagles into the state semifinals.
“We chunked it and chunked it all day, and then we finally broke one,” Kesler said. “Three yards and a cloud of snow is what I’ve been calling it this week.”
Lourdes finished with nearly 30 minutes of possession time, while Jordan had just over 17.
Kesler said this Lourdes team has truly bought in to the coaching staff’s philosophy. He said running the football is key, especially this time of year.
“When we took over here 14 years ago, we wanted to be playing this time of year,” Kesler said. “We want to run the ball and stop the run. In Minnesota, if you can run the ball and stop the run, you’re going to give yourself a great chance to win. Those are the things we pride ourselves on. Our kids understand that, they believe in it, and they listen. They’ve really bought in, and they executed, they made the plays. I’m just really proud of these guys, proud to have this team back playing indoors.”
Jungels paced the Eagles with 15 carries for 86 yards. Groteboer added 14 carries for 41 yards, and Hayford completed 3 of 5 passes for 48 yards.
Sievers led Jordan with 94 yards rushing on 13 carries.
Lourdes brings a 12-0 record into the showdown with defending champion Pierz (11-0), which has won 24 consecutive games.
LOURDES 24, JORDAN 0
Jordan 0 0 0 0 — 0
Lourdes 14 0 3 7 — 24
LHS — Matthew Hayford 5 run (Ben Limburg kick), 5:16.
LHS — Jake Groteboer 1 run (Limburg kick), 2:16.
LHS — Limburg 35 field goal, 7:16.
LHS — Zach Jungels 33 run (Limburg kick), 4:30.
First downs 14 18
Total net yards 241 257
Rushes-yards 24-123 51-209
Passing yards 118 48
Comp.-att.-int. 15-36-4 3-5-0
Penalties-yds. 5-51 4-30
Punts-avg. 2-33 3-31
Fumbles-lost 1-1 1-1
Jordan — Bryce Sievers 13-94, Ako Butler 3-19, Macauley Bartels 7-11, Marlon Wiley 1-(-1). Lourdes — Zach Jungels 15-86, Jake Groteboer 14-41, Matthew Hayford 9-31, Pat Leary 6-26, Andrew Peine 7-25.
Jordan — Bryce Sievers 15 completions-36 attempts-118 yards-0 touchdowns-4 interceptions. Lourdes — Matthew Hayford 3-5-48-0-0.
Jordan — Ryan Friedges 5-57, Ako Butler 3-30, Marlon Wiley 4-21, Hunter Bedney 1-8, Jerry Powell 1-3, Ryan Samuelson 1-(-1). Lourdes — Hayden Brown 1-14, Pat Leary 1-31, Julian Bretton 1-3