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KoMets' next assignment is a whopper

The Kasson-Mantorville football team has reached the state semifinals. Up next for the KoMets is unbeaten and No. 1-ranked Becker.

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Kasson-Mantorville head coach Joel Swanson talks to his team after beating Byron 42-14 in the Section 1AAAA championship game Friday, Nov. 5, 2021, at Mayo High School in Rochester. The KoMets will play in the state tournament semifinals at 4:30 p.m. Thursday at U.S. Bank Stadium. Post Bulletin file photo / Andrew Link Bulletin

This isn’t surprising to Gavin Giesler.

Not after the way his Kasson-Mantorville team performed last year. And not after he watched the commitment and execution from his football teammates this summer.

The 6-foot-2, 205-pound senior tight end/defensive end was right in the middle of all of that summertime sweat, including making the move from center to receiver and spending countless hours catching passes from KoMets quarterback Matthew Donovan.

RELATED: Kasson-Mantorville blasts Fridley, heading to The Bank

It was that kind of devotion that’s helped the No. 7-ranked KoMets to the stage they are now, set to play No. 1-ranked Becker at 4:30 p.m. Thursday in the Class AAAA state semifinals at U.S. Bank Stadium.

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No. 2 Hutchinson meets unranked Orono in the other semifinal, at 4:30 p.m. Friday.

“A lot of people were doing a lot of individual work to be the best player they could be,” Giesler said. “Plus, I could see at our summer camp at Augustana (University, in South Dakota), that guys were coming together super well. All of it has been a blast. This group has grown super close.”

They’ve grown into a team that’s gone from winning the Section 1AAAA title a year ago, when there was no state tournament due to the COVID-19 pandemic, to one that’s one win away from playing for a state championship.

K-M hasn’t been this far since 2009. It takes an 8-3 record into its showdown with Becker, which enters 11-0.

Becker is in the state tournament for the first time since 2017, when it lost in the first round. The Bulldogs last won the state title in 2015, when they finished 13-0.

This is a dream come true for Giesler, who like Donovan, is playing in a state tournament for the second time in seven months. The duo helped the Dodge County boys hockey team go all the way to the Class A state championship game last spring at the Xcel Energy Center.

Now, the thought of setting foot on the U.S. Bank Stadium turf has Giesler in hot anticipation. And the thought of playing more football with his teammates is even better.

Though they are an underdog, they are showing up to do one thing — win.

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“I am super stoked to be playing at U.S. Bank Stadium,” Giesler said. “Our mindset is to show up thinking we can win. I am super confident in our abilities. We have to be able to have good communication out there on offense and defense. Everyone has to do their job.”

Giesler certainly did his job in the state quarterfinals, where the KoMets were a decisive 42-7 winner over No. 9-ranked Fridley.

Giesler caught two passes from his buddy Donovan in that one, covering a total of 59 yards. Both went for touchdowns.

The KoMets are an even better running team. That showed up again against Fridley as K-M rode its two star runners, Donovan and Anthony Moe-Tucker. Donovan finished with 112 yards rushing on 18 carries and Moe-Tucker 92 yards on 12 carries, with three touchdowns.

Donovan has 1,391 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns this season. He’s also thrown for 633 yards and eight touchdowns (two interceptions). Moe-Tucker, who missed a handful of games this year, has 755 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns.

K-M third-year head coach Joel Swanson would love to see that efficient mix of run and pass against juggernaut Becker that he saw against Fridley.

The KoMets are going to have to come up with something against the Bulldogs, who are permitting just eight points per game.

“We have an unselfish offense,” Swanson said. “You never know when you’re going to be called upon. But against Fridley, we found some things in our passing game that opened up. Our kids just have to be patient.”

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Defensively, Swanson is preaching the same heady approach, where his team adjusts on the fly. He figures that flexibility will be crucial against Becker, which has beaten teams just as much through the air as on the ground.

The Bulldogs are led by their star quarterback, Ryan Bengtson. Undersized at just 5-foot-10, 150-pounds, the junior has still made that work as he’s passed for 1,492 yards, 22 touchdowns and just one interception.

Becker also has a beast of a running back in Carter Callahan. The senior goes 6-1, 230 and has 17 rushing touchdowns.

Defensively, Becker’s biggest star has been defensive end Ian Burau. The 6-2, 220-pound junior has eight sacks.

Pat has been a Post Bulletin sports reporter since 1994. He covers Rochester John Marshall football, as well as a variety of other southeastern Minnesota football teams. Among my other southeastern Minnesota high school beats are girls basketball, boys and girls tennis, boys and girls track and field, high school and American Legion baseball, volleyball, University of Minnesota sports (on occasion) and the Timberwolves (on occasion). Readers can reach Pat at 507-285-7723 or pruff@postbulletin.com.
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