Lourdes grabs section championship
KASS0N — Let the record show that Rochester Lourdes won its sixth Section One, Class AAA championship in the last nine years Saturday night.
This one came courtesy of a 29-15 win over Cannon Falls at the Telecom Stadium in Kasson.
Let the record also show that this one wasn't easy, even though the Eagles defeated Cannon Falls by 20 points less than three weeks ago.
"They came out ready to play,'' said Lourdes senior McKay Carstens.
"Forget the record, we knew how good they are,'' said Lourdes coach Mike Kesler. "Don't forget, they defeated the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds in our section, and no other team in the state did that.
Silly question aside, winning section championships never gets old.
"Winning a section is definitely not easy,'' Kesler said, "and especially this section. There are quality teams all the way through.
"This is what we set out to do in the offseason. All the hard work came down to playing in this game. I told them we are 48 minutes away from reaching our goal, and we did.''
It took most of the 48 minutes, too, but the Eagles are now heading back to some familiar turf — the Class AAA state playoffs.
They meet Fairmont at 7 p.m. Friday at Burnsville in a Class AAA quarterfinal.
"I've been on section championships before,'' said McKay Carstens, "but this one is the best. As seniors, you dream of holding that section trophy, and we got to do that tonight.''
Cannon Falls came out swinging, and the game was tied at half, 7-7.
In the first game between the teams, the Bombers scored on the opening kickoff for a TD, and on Saturday night, Tyler Melhouse pounced on a fumble in the end zone to give them a 7-0 lead at the 5:56 mark.
But two series later, senior quarterback Michael Brandt threw his first TD pass since the Byron game in Week 4, and it was a thing of beauty, finding tight end James Ustby all alone on the 20-yard line. Ustby waltzed in to complete a 55-yard play.
"I had plenty of time,'' Brandt said, "and James ran a perfect route. This was a play we had practiced all week. I guess that practice paid off.''
In the meantime, Cannon Falls was holding Lourdes' leading rusher Kane Carstens in check. At the half, he had gained only 31 yards in 12 carries. That came on the heels of the first game when Carstens broke loose for 261 yards on 28 carries and three TDs.
"We didn't want him to get outside like he did the first time,'' said Cannon Falls coach Josh Hofstedt. "He's an explosive runner, we knew that.''
Lourdes found little wiggle room in the first half and could only garner 96 yards against the Cannon Falls front.
"We didn't change anything at half,'' said McKay Carstens, "but we knew we had to execute better.''
Kesler redirected the offense to run the ball up the middle rather than try to force it outside.
The Eagles responded with 220 yards worth of second-half offense, but perhaps the biggest play of the game came from one of the littlest players, Lourdes 5-10, 165-pound wide receiver Zach Hillman.
Lourdes moved to the Cannon Falls 20 with the second-half kickoff and failed to convert on a fourth-and-five. Cannon Falls was stopped on three downs and was forced to punt.
Hillman took the punt at midfield and scooted down the right sideline to the Bombers 9. Two plays later Kane Carstens scored from seven yards giving the Eagles a lead they never relinquished.
At that time of game, a fair catch might have been an option for Hillman.
"I have the green light,'' Hillman said, "and I saw some running room down the sideline. And I got some real good blocks.''
Kesler agreed with the green light.
"If he has room, let him run,'' he said. "Zach is fast, and it doesn't take much to break him loose. He hasn't scored yet, but the time is coming.''
That TD sparked the Eagles. Even though Cannon Falls drove to the Eagles 28, Lourdes held and got the ball back on downs. Eight plays later, McKay Carstens scored.
A Cannon Falls four-and-out was followed by Lourdes' third straight TD, this one on a nifty 50-yard run by Kane Carstens, who finally found some running room.
"It was only a matter of time,'' said Kesler, who was especially proud of his defense.
"To hold a team like Cannon Falls down like we did is quite an accomplishment,'' he said. "But it was a team effort all the way through.
"Winning section championships is more than just the players. Our staff has done a wonderful job. They've sacrificed all year, too, and you saw the results tonight.''
Hofstedt said the Cannon Falls program is back on solid ground. "This is the first time in school history that we played in back-to-back section championship games,'' he said. "Tonight we had some good drives but could never finish them off.
"We never made a big play when we needed it.''
Cannon Falls played St. Croix Lutheran last year for the Section 4AAA championship.
Lourdes 29, Cannon Falls 15
Cannon Falls 7 0 0 8 — 15
Lourdes 7 0 8 14 — 29
CF — Tyler Melhouse fumble recovery in end zone (Derek Johnson kick), 5:56.
LHS — James Ustby 55 pass from Michael Brandt (Brandt kick), :56.Drive: 59 yards, 3 plays, 1:18. Key play: TD came on a third-and-six.
LHS — Kane Carstens 7 run Zach (Hillman run). Drive: 9 yards, 2 plays, :39. Key play: Play was set up on a 41-yard punt return by Hillman to the 9.
LHS — McKay Carstens 2 run (Brandt kick), 10:19. Drive: 57 yards, 8 plays, 3:18. Key play: Kane Carstens ran 22 yards to the Cannon Falls 4.
LHS — Kane Carstens 50 run (Brandt run), 4:27.Drive: 54 yards, 5 plays, 3:12. Key play: Carstens scored on a third-and-20 play.
CF — Alex Bultena 1 pass from Hunter Johnson (Brock Peterson pass from Johnson), 2:18.Drive: 77 yards, 10 plays, 2:04. Key play: Drive never reached a third down. Longest play was a 16-yard pass from Hunter Johnson to Jordan Lundell.
First downs........................ 14 14
Total net yards................ 223 316
Rushes-yards................ 27-26 48-234
Passing yards.................... 167 82
Comp-att-int.............. 20-37-0 5-7-0
Fumbles-lost...................... 1-0 1-1
Penalties-yards 3-27 7-52
Punts-avg. 6-25.5 3-28.3
Time possession. 11:22 25:20
Rushing — CF:Hunter Johnson 20-37; Jordan Lundell 3-9; Nick Lorentz 3-8; Clay Broze 1-2. LHS:Kane Carstens 20-142, 2 TDs; McKay Carstens 7-84, TD; Michael Brandt 8-15; Team, 2-0; Nick Steinmetz 1-(-7).
Passing — CF:Hunter Johnson 19-35, 1 TD, 120 yards; LHS: Michael Brandt 5-7, 1 TD, 82 yards.
Receiving — CF:Alex Bultena 11-67, TD; Jordan Lundell 6-63; Brock Peterson 3-37. LHS:James Ustby 1-55, TD; Daniel Burriss 2-13; Zach Hillman 1-10; Nick Steinmetz 1-4.