Stewartville vs Waseca Football

Stewartville's Elton Myhre (14) runs after catching a pass during the Section 1AAA football championship game against Waseca on Friday, Nov. 1, 2019, at RCTC in Rochester. (Andrew Link / alink@postbulletin.com)

Garrett Mueller couldn’t help but smile, even at a difficult moment, when asked about his senior class.

“It’s a group of guys who’ve always been undersized and kind of forgotten about,” the Stewartville football coach said. “It’s a small group; we only had 11 seniors this year and I couldn’t be more proud of a group, of their hard work and dedication and the accumulation of their four years that they put in here.

“To see (their careers) end with a season like this, I’m so happy we were able to send them out that way because they’ve deserved it as much as any group we’ve had.”

The end of the line for that hard-working group of Stewartville seniors came Friday night at Rochester Regional Stadium in a 42-20 Section 1AAA championship game loss against a Waseca team that was a bit faster, a bit stronger and a bit quicker than any the Tigers had faced this fall.

And when top-seeded and No. 4-ranked Stewartville began chipping into the Bluejays’ lead, the Tigers learned they hadn’t faced a team quite as resilient, either.

Waseca built a three-score lead in the first half, watched Stewartville pull within a touchdown early in the third quarter, then all but shut the Tigers down the rest of the way.

The Bluejays (8-2) -- who were the state runners-up in Class AAAA last season – earn a trip to the Class AAA state quarterfinals, next Saturday at Lakeville South High School against the Section 3AAA champion, Jackson County Central or Fairmont. Stewartville’s outstanding season comes to a close with an 8-1 record.

“Growing throughout the season was one thing we really, as a program were trying to improve on,” Mueller said. “The last few years, we weren’t seeing that growth and that improvement throughout the course of the season.

“This year it was nice to see that happen, that we continued to grow and get better throughout the year, and we were really clicking on all cylinders, then we ran into a buzzsaw like Waseca in the section playoffs, unfortunately.”

Waseca played to its strengths from the opening kickoff. The Bluejays’ massive offensive line, which includes four players who weigh 225 or more, paved the way for rushing touchdowns by quarterback Ryan Dufault and receiver Tave Ball, as well as an 18-yard Dufault-to-Kyreese Willingham TD, which added up to a 21-0 lead 20 minutes into the game.

“They’re our biggest leaders,” said Dufault, who finished with 145 rushing yards and two TDs on 19 carries. “They push us every day not to take one practice or one play off, they keep us going.

“And the fast start helped a lot. In our losses we weren’t able to get off to a fast start like this, and the (opponents) came out and scored right away on us, so it was good to drive down the field and score on the first possession.”

Stewartville’s star running back, Josh Buri, scored on a 1-yard run with 17 seconds left in the first half, and again on a 34-yard run on the first possession of the second half — a run that showcased both his speed and power. That helped the Tigers pull within 21-13 with 7:53 to go in the third quarter.

But Waseca answered on its next drive, going 65 yards in 10 plays, culminating with a 9-yard Dufault touchdown run for a 28-13 lead. The Bluejays scored the next two TDs, as well, putting the game out of reach and earning a second consecutive trip to the state tournament.

“We all have a lot of experience, a lot of guys who played last year as sophomores and now know what to expect as juniors,” Dufault said. “And our seniors, they’ve played a big role this year, even though a lot of them didn’t start last year, they’ve stepped in and been awesome.”

Buri finished with 192 yards and three touchdowns on 30 carries, while junior quarterback Will Tschetter completed 17 of 32 passes, with two interceptions, for 154 yards. They are two of a talented core group who will return for the Tigers next fall.

“A lot of our impact players are back, at the quarterback and running back positions, certainly,” Mueller said. “We have a really strong sophomore class, too, that will be a year older and more mature and will help fill in some gaps. And our current junior class will be another year older, they’ll be seniors and so it’ll be their last ride, but we’re very excited for what we have coming back next year and looking for big things.”

WASECA 42, STEWARTVILLE 20

Waseca#7#14#7#14#—#42

Stewartville#0#7#6#7#—#20

First quarter

WAS — Ryan Dufault 2 run (Shawn Hulscher kick). 6:40

Second quarter

WAS — Kyreese Willingham 18 pass from Dufault (Hulscher kick). 9:13

WAS — Tave Ball 10 run (Hulscher kick). 3:29

STEW — Josh Buri 1 run (Kate Pedelty kick). :17

Third quarter

STEW — Buri 34 run (kick blocked). 7:53

WAS — Dufault 9 run (Hulscher kick). 3:27

Fourth quarter

WAS — Ball 55 run (Hulscher kick). 10:08

WAS — Denver Daniel 5 run (Hulscher kick). 7:25

STEW — Buri 5 run (Pedelty kick). 1:39

TEAM TOTALS

#WAS#STEW

First downs#17#18

Total net yards#389#328

Rushing yards#43-312#34-174

Comp.-att.-int.#4-6-0#17-32-2

Passing yards#77#154

Fumbles-lost#1-0#3-2

Penalties-yards#3-20#6-35

Punts-avg.#0-0#0-0

Time of poss.#22:49#25:11

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

Rushing

WAS — Ryan Dufault 19-145, 2 TDs; Denver Daniel 12-52, 1 TD; Tave Ball 7-103, 1 TD; Samuel O’Brien 1-10; Ty Below 1-(minus-7). STEW — Josh Buri 30-192, 3 TDs; Andrew Steiger 1-2; Will Tschetter 3-(minus-20).

Passing

WAS — Dufault 4 comp.-5 att.-0 int., 77 yards, 1 TD; Daniel 0-1-0, 0 yards. STEW — Tschetter 17-32-2, 154 yards.

Receiving

WAS — Kyreese Willingham 2-47, 1 TD; Ball 1-17; Daniel 1-13. STEW — Nolan Stier 4-57; Elton Myhre 4-36; Buri 3-19; Steiger 2-18; Nick Mohs 1-5; Will Laures 1-4.

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