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Top seeded Mayo thumps past Century to reach third consecutive Section 1AAAAA championship

Isaiah Beale led an offense with four rushing touchdowns, while the defense was stout as the Spartans dominated their city rivals in Saturday's Section 1AAAAA semifinal.

Century, Mayo football
Mayo's Jorge Martinez chases Century quarterback Harrison Esau during a Section 1AAAAA semifinal on Saturday, Oct 29, 2022 at Mayo High School.
Alex VandenHouten / Post Bulletin
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ROCHESTER — The Mayo football team did not like the way it ended the regular season.

Sure, Mayo still won by four touchdowns against Byron back on Oct. 19, but the Spartans turned the ball over six times against the Bears, leaving coach Donny Holcomb shaking his head.

It's a performance that gets teams beat in the postseason.

That message was hammered home by the Mayo coaching staff over the course of 10 days as the Spartans enjoyed the bye that comes with the top-seed.

"It was a wake-up call, especially going into sections," senior lineman Jorge Martinez said.

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With that in mind, the Spartans held a team meeting during Saturday morning's pancake breakfast, re-evaluating their objectives as they headed into the night's semifinal versus crosstown rival Century.

It seemed to work, as the Spartans came out with a chip on their shoulder, before turning in one of their best halves of the season. Isaiah Beale rushed for four more touchdowns and the Spartans wasted little time with No. 4 seeded Century in a 49-13 victory in a Section 1AAAA semifinal on Saturday at Mayo High School.

Century finishes the season 3-7 overall, while the Spartans (8-1) will now play in their third consecutive Section 1AAAAA championship. They will look to defend their title against No. 2 Owatonna, which came back to defeat Northfield 17-14 with a touchdown in the final minutes in the other semifinal on Saturday.

Mayo was ready from the first whistle, needing just five plays before Beale punched it in from 4-yards out for the early lead. It was the first of four rushing touchdowns for the talented sophomore.

He added a 10-yarder and a 46-yarder right before the half, before making it 42-0 with an 11-yard TD in the third quarter. He finished with 123 yards rushing on just 15 carries and now has scored all 11 of his touchdowns in the past four games.

As a team, the Spartans rushing attack was once again potent, rushing for 216 yards — the fourth straight game they have reached 200-yards on the ground.

"I think they have the best offensive line in the conference," Century coach Jon Vik said. "They're tough. Defensive line, same thing. That's a real credit to them, really nice job of execution."

James Mankaka made it 14-0 Mayo, showing off impressive speed to take a post route 87-yards to the house in the first quarter.

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Century, Mayo football
Mayo's James Mankaka catches a ball before sprinting for an 87-yard touchdown against Century on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022 in a Section 1AAAAA semifinal at Mayo High School.
Alex VandenHouten / Post Bulletin

Quarterback Rees Grimsrud completed eight passes for 198 yards with two touchdowns. Tore Papenfuss took a shuffle pass for an 8-yard TD reception late in the third quarter.

The Spartans finished with 414 yards of total offense.

"The kids came through with a nice, fast start," coach Holcomb said. "Then I'm super proud to have all the kids that got to play step right into what was expected of them."

The Century offense and quarterback Harrison Esau were able to move the ball at times with the passing attack.

Esau completed 17 passes for 217 yards, but the Century offense just couldn't sustain drives. The Panthers first two drives ended with turnovers on downs and other possessions halted, mainly due to the ferocious Mayo defensive line.

Jorge Martinez, Brig Poppe and Ethan Kramer were constants in the Century backfield to make the life for Esau miserable at times.

The junior quarterback was tough, but the pressure was too much to overcome. Mayo sacked him four times and picked him off once.

"We were getting pressured all night," Vik said. "(Esau) was really getting hit, even though he was making completions. It's a tough thing, he's a tough kid. I'm impressed with his physical toughness. But it's hard to keep doing that play after play. We weren't able to get the run game going, but watching film, I didn't see many teams get their running game going against their defense."

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Elijah Thompson caught a pair of second half touchdowns for the Panthers, who played hard until the end — something Vik was proud of as they head into the offseason.

"It was a frustrating season for us coaches, the players, for everybody," Vik said. "But the thing I will say is that these kids fought all the way until the end."

Century, Mayo football
Mayo's Tore Papenfuss carries the ball against Century on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022 in a Section 1AAAAA semifinal at Mayo High School.
Alex VandenHouten / Post Bulletin

As for the Spartans, the season continues with another showdown with Owatonna at 7 p.m. on Nov. 5 at Mayo High School. It's a matchup that has delivered classic after classic in the recent years.

"We're looking forward to it," Holcomb said with a smile.

Mayo 49, Century 13
Century 0-0-7-6—13
Mayo 14-21-14-0—49

First Quarter

Mayo — Isaiah Beale 4 run (Ethan Post kick), 9:25

Mayo — James Mankaka 87 pass from Rees Grimsrud (Post kick), 6:29

Second Quarter

Mayo — Beale 10 run (pass failed), 6:50

Mayo — Beale 46 run (Post kick), 1:19

Mayo — Tore Papenfuss 8 pass from Grimsrud (Post kick), 0:24.

Third Quarter

Mayo — Beale 15 run (Post kick), 4:11

Century — Elijah Thompson 26 pass from Harrison Esau, 3:05

Mayo — Joseph Boguslawski 55 run (Post kick), 2:38

Fourth Quarter

Century — Thompson 11 pass from Esau

Owatonna stuns Northfield

As mentioned, the Spartans and Huskies are set for another Section 1AAAAA championship.

But for a time on Saturday, it appeared the Spartans would be facing Northfield for the right to go to state.

The Raiders led 14-0 after the first quarter and held a 14-7 lead with under 6 minutes left. Yet, a high snap on a punt went out of the end zone for safety, giving Owatonna two points plus the ball with 5:17 remaining.

Owatonna drove the length of the field, converting a fourth-and-8 at the Northfield 27, before quarterback Jacob Ginskey punched in a 1-yard rushing touchdown to give the Huskies their first lead of the game with 1:33 left.

The Owatonna defense then forced a turnover on downs on the ensuing possession. It's the sixth straight year the Huskies will play in the Section 1AAAAA championship.

Alex VandenHouten has been a sports reporter at the Post Bulletin since Sept. 2021. He loves to go hiking, biking, snowshoeing and just simply being outdoors with his wife Olivia. Readers can reach Alex at avandenhouten@postbulletin.com.
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