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Lourdes takes a wild ride to edge upstart La Crescent-Hokah

Rochester Lourdes built a five-touchdown lead in the first half, then watched as La Crescent-Hokah rallied to take a one-point lead in the fourth quarter. Lourdes steadied itself and found a way to win, though, improving to 3-1 this season.

LOURDES.L-H.03.jpg
Lourdes running back Caleb Akinbolu (16) is brought down by La Crescent-Hokah defenders, including Noah Bjerke-Wieser (14) during a Southeast District football game on Friday, Sept. 23, 2022, at La Crescent.
Contributed / Daniel Borgeson
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La CRESCENT — Once the final buzzer had sounded, Mike Kesler couldn't help but chuckle when thinking back on the previous three hours.

In some was it was a blur, in others it was crystal clear to the long-time Rochester Lourdes head football coach.

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"I've been doing this a long time," said Kesler, in his 18th season as the Eagles' head coach. "I haven't seen anything like that."

Lourdes rode home with a 41-36 victory in a Southeast District football game against La Crescent-Hokah in a game that was even wilder than the final score might indicate.

Kesler watched Lourdes dominate the first 20 minutes and build a five-touchdown lead late in the second quarter. In fact, the Eagles led 35-7 going into the fourth quarter.

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Then the game flipped upside down as the Lancers — riding a two-game winning streak for the first time in seven years, and playing inspired football under first-year head coach Terry Donovan — made that lead disappear with a comeback for the ages in the final 12 minutes.

And just when La Crescent-Hokah — which had rallied to take a 1-point lead midway through the fourth quarter — looked poised to score its sixth consecutive touchdown, with less than 3 minutes to play, Lourdes' senior linebacker Eli Haight made the play of the night, on a night when many big plays were made.

Haight stripped a Lancers ball carrier at the Lourdes 2-yard line and held onto the ball, giving the Eagles some life, though they needed to go 98 yards in about 2 minutes, 30 seconds.

Then, a Lourdes offense that had stagnated in the second half, including turning the ball over once and surrendering a safety, needed only about a minute of that time to regain the lead.

With the ball at the La Crescent-Hokah 31-yard line, the Eagles called the number of one of their senior leaders. On the snap of the ball, quarterback Adam Sellner faked a handoff to Haight as the entire Eagles offense pushed to its left. As that was happening, senior receiver Aidan Jahns crossed behind the formation from left to right. He took a pitch from Sellner on the reverse and sprinted around the right end. Receiver Hudson Fix threw a key block 18 yards downfield, springing Jahns untouched for a 69-yard touchdown with 1:31 to play.

"It was just a classic reverse play we've had in our playbook forever," Kesler said. "We had some big blocks on that paly and Aidan made some people miss."

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Lourdes receiver Hudson Fix (3) runs after a catch, as La Crescent-Hokah linebacker Jaden George pursues during a Southeast District football game at La Crescent on Friday, Sept. 23, 2022.
Daniel Borgeson / contributed

A failed two-point conversion left Lourdes with a 41-36 lead, then the Eagles' defense stepped up, forcing the Lancers into a 4th-and-10 situation. Lancers QB AJ Donovan was pressured on his drop-back and Lourdes freshman Caleb Akinbolu — a force in the Eagles' ground game all season — stepped in front of the pass, intercepting it with 53 seconds remaining, to seal Lourdes' third consecutive victory.

"It was a lot of fun tonight, a great high school game," Kesler said. "I'm so happy for Terry and what they're doing down here. I knew they'd get things turned around and he has done it quickly. I've never seen so many people at a game in La Crescent. The kids here have always played hard. It's just a testament to Terry and his staff."

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The schedule gets no easier for Lourdes (3-1 overall), as it will play top-10 ranked teams over the next two weeks. The Eagles host the No. 1-ranked team in Class AAA, Cannon Falls, on Friday, Sept. 30, then Lourdes travels to No. 7-ranked Plainview-Elgin-Millville on Friday, Oct. 7.

Likewise for La Crescent-Hokah (2-2), the schedule gets no easier. The Lancers will host the No. 1-ranked team in Class AA, and the defending state champion, Chatfield next Friday. The Gophers average 54.0 points scored per game.

LOURDES 41, La CRESCENT-HOKAH 36

Lourdes 21-14-0-6 — 41

La Crescent 0-7-0-29 — 36

First Quarter

Lourdes — Caleb Akinbolu 46 run (Aidan Jahns kick) 11:34.

Lourdes — Eli Haight 3 run (Jahns kick) 5:35.

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Lourdes — Akinbolu 10 run (Jahns kick) :19.

Second Quarter

Lourdes — Hudson Fix 93 pass from Adam Sellner (Jahns kick) 9:48.

Lourdes — Sellner 62 run (Jahns kick) 5:19.

L-H — Carter Todd 18 pass from AJ Donovan (Donovan kick) 2:20.

Fourth Quarter

L-H — Noah Bjerke-Wieser 23 pass from Donovan (Donovan kick) 11:54.

L-H — Safety; ball carrier tackled in end zone. 11:44.

L-H — Todd 9 pass from Donovan (pass failed) 9:18.

L-H — Bjerke-Wieser 26 pass from Todd (Donovan kick) 9:12.

L-H — Mason Einerwold 17 run (Donovan kick) 6:39.

Lourdes — Jahns 69 run (run failed) 1:31.

TEAM TOTALS
LRDS — L-H
First downs 16 — 22
Total net yards 473 — 393
Rushes-yards 39-317 — 37-147
Passing yards 156 — 246
Comp.-att.-int. 6-10-0 — 14-29-1
Penalties-yds. 10-82 — 6-50
Fumbles-lost 3-1 — 3-2
Punts-avg. 2-37.5 — 3-25.3
Time of poss. 19:00 — 27:59

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

Rushing
Lourdes: Caleb Akinbolu 22-135, 2 TDs; Adam Sellner 12-99, 1; Aidan Jahns 1-69, 1; Eli Haight 4-14, 1. L-H: Mason Einerwold 6-50, 1 TD; Logan DeBoer 12-49; Carter Todd 7-39; Noah Bjerke-Wieser 4-17; AJ Donovan 7-(minus-8).

Passing
Lourdes: Adam Sellner 6-10-0, 156 yards, 1 TD. L-H: AJ Donovan 14-29-1, 246 yards, 3 TDs.

Receiving

Lourdes: Hudson Fix 2-98; Aidan Jahns 2-52; Eil Haight 1-3; Thatcher Bochmann 1-3. L-H: Carter Todd 7-141; Noah Bjerke-Wieser 6-115; Mason Einerwold 2-13.

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Lourdes quarterback Adam Sellner ran for two touchdowns and passed for another in the first half of a Southeast District football game at La Crescent-Hokah on Friday, Sept. 23, 2022.
Daniel Borgeson / contributed

Jason Feldman is the sports editor of the Post Bulletin. In addition to managing the four-person sports staff at the PB, Jason covers high school football, golf and high school and junior hockey. Readers can reach Jason at 507-281-7430 or jfeldman@postbulletin.com.
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