In bone-rattling conditions, Goodhue held off the big playmakers of Randolph and got just enough at the end to to come out on top Friday night.
Neither team gained much offensively and both defenses created enough turnovers to put more points on the board. Nevertheless, the Wildcats prevailed in a 12-6 win.
The Wildcats opened the scoring in the second quarter on a short run by sophomore Maddox O’Reilly. By game’s end, O’Reilly had 128 yards on a whopping 35 carries.
Filling in for junior running back Logan Ferguson, O’Reilly shouldered much of the run game for the Wildcats. Goodhue head coach Tony Poncelet was pleased with the body of work by his running back.
“Maddox stepped up and did a great job,” Poncelet said. “We knew that he would do this. He's a sophomore starting on defense. So we kind of want to get him settled into that and play him both sides.”
O’Reilly frequently gained extra yards by driving forward and using his blockers effectively.
“It's not only me,” O’Reilly said when asked why he had such success. “It's my lead blockers making holes in the lines. I just hit the hole and go.”
The Rockets responded quickly to O’Reilly’s touchdown. On their next drive, Isaac Stoesz caught a ball on a slant, blew past four Wildcat defenders and took it 60 yards for the touchdown.
With neither team getting an extra point, the score was tied 6-6 with 7 minutes, 21 seconds left in the second quarter.
From then on, the two teams exchanged punts, turnover-on-downs, fumble recoveries and interceptions.
The Wildcats lost four fumbles, three of which were recovered by Rocket Kavin Blonigan. Isaac Stoesz lost a ball trying for a hook-and-ladder near the end of the first half. Rocket quarterback Nick Drinken threw three interceptions.
In total, the two teams combined for eight turnovers.
“I thought the defense did very well,” O’Reilly said. “We only gave up that one big play that they scored on.”
“They have athletic skill position guys and that was their biggest strength that we needed to stop,” Poncelet said.
For Randolph, the turnovers were costly.
Wildcat Sam Peterson picked off Drinken on a screen pass to Blonigan and returned it to the Randolph 20-yard line. Baxter O’Reilly converted the turnover into points with a 1-yard run for a touchdown, giving the Wildcats a 12-6 lead.
Conor O’Reilly secured the win with an interception of Drinken on a throw to Stoesz. With 2:06 to go in the game, the last interception sealed the Rockets’ fate.
“I thought defensively we played really well,” said Randoph head coach Mike Schmidt. “We caused turnovers, enough turnovers to put our offense in a good position and we just weren't able to capitalize. You can't blame the weather, they had to play in it too. We couldn't sustain drives.”
Goodhue (5-2), which has won its last three games since losing to Blooming Prairie on Sept. 20, next plays Kenyon-Wanamingo at home on Wednesday, Oct. 16. Randolph (5-2) finishes its season on the road against Bethlehem Academy.
Moving forward Schmidt said the key for the Rockets is better execution on offense.
“The execution wasn't where it needed to be,” he said. “Getting further into the season and the playoffs, execution is crucial. It has to be spot on and it wasn't tonight. That's why we came out on the wrong end on the scoreboard.”
For the Wildcats, it’s the running game.
“We're going to need to establish the run game early,” O’Reilly said. “Whatever happens from there, hopefully it (goes our way).”
“It's tough to move the ball in this wind,” Poncelet said. “If you don't have a running game in the fall in Minnesota it's tough going.”