A year ago, on the same field in Jordan, Fillmore Central snuck by Lester Prairie 18-16 in the state quarterfinals to make the state semis and a game at U.S. Bank Stadium. The same site at this year’s 1A state quarterfinal versus #7 Springfield (Section 3A Champ, 10-1) was not so kind to the #2 Falcons (Section 1A Champ, 11-0). The beginning of FC’s fate being doomed could be traced to midway through the fourth quarter. Trailing 14-12, with the ball near midfield, FC QB Chase Christianson was intercepted by Carter Olson at the 24-yard line, and the senior returned the pick 69 yards all the way to FC seven. It was the largest yardage-gaining play of the game.
The Falcon defense, specifically Henry Liew and Kyle Daniels, stopped a Kade Nachreiner run on 4th and goal, thus stopping the drive. But with 5:47 left in the game, the Falcons situation was growing dire starting a drive at the two. They punted and Springfield started their ensuing drive at the Falcon 32 with 5:21 left. On 3rd and 20 from the 29, Nachreiner avoided a Joey Ristau sack and found Russell Beers for a 25-yard first down completion to the four-yard-line. It was Beers’ only touch of the game. It was the (near) game-clinching play. A roughing the passer penalty on the play put the ball at the two. Three plays later, with less than a minute remaining, FC pretty much let Ashton Toll score on a 1-yard TD run. The Falcons slim hopes were to stop an extra point try, to keep the game a one score contest, 20-12. That hope was greatly improved by a bad PAT snap, but dashed as holder Olson escaped and scampered in for the game-clinching two-point conversion run, making the score 22-12 with 0:54 left. And that was that, as Springfield moved on to the state semis by that tally.
The biggest moments of the game thus happened at the end, and at the beginning. On the game’s first drive, Christianson hit Jayce Kiehne for 49 yards to the Springfield two. But the Falcons were not able to punch it in on three attempts. A Christianson sneak on 3rd and goal from inside the one was ruled a fumble, recovered by the Tigers in the end zone for a touchback. It was either just barely a fumble, or just barely a touchdown; a play of inches. The senior also might have scored on second down with a sneak. Despite that outcome, FC still was able to lead at halftime. The Falcons answered an early second quarter Springfield 4th and four, 6-yard touchdown pass from Nachreiner to Olson, with touchdown passes from Christianson to Kiehne (19 yards) and Greg Kennedy (40 yards) on back-to-back possessions for a 12-8 halftime lead. The Kiehne TD came on 4th and nine (and was the second 4th down conversion of the series). The Kennedy TD was a result of good field position following a six-yard Springfield punt. With their first second half possession, the Tigers went 59 yards in nine plays, Nachreiner hitting Olson for a 15-yard TD pass on about the same slant as their second quarter TD connection. It was the go-ahead score that put the Tigers up 14-12.
The score held that way until the final fourth quarter sequence. The contest featured nine three-and-outs and each team had seven punts. FC had 289 yards total offense (235 passing, 54 rushing), Springfield 240 yards (117 passing, 113 rushing). The Tigers had 12 first downs to FC’s 11. FC’s Christianson (13 of 31, 235 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs) attempted a season-high 31 passes with his only sub-50% completion rate of the year. He entered completing 67% of his passes. Springfield’s Olson had both interceptions, as FC lost the turnover battle 3 to 1. Kiehne (5-129, TD receiving, 3-26 rushing) and Kyle Daniels (5-43 receiving, 9-27 rushing) were FC’s most used offensive weapons. Kiehne added an interception. Nachreiner, a prolific passer coming in, had a pedestrian day (14 of 21, 117 yards, 2 TDs, INT passing), hitting Olson (8-57, 2 TDs receiving) most often. Toll (15-54, TD rushing) and Samuel Rummel (14-42 rushing) carried the load on the ground.
FC’s season thus ends at 11-1. A 12-man senior class played their last game for Coach Chris Mensink, one highlighted by key contributors Kiehne, Christianson, Daniels, Liew, Luke Hellickson, Jacob Mandelko, Lincoln Iverson, Zach Krage and Tyler Mayer as well as Blaine Niemeyer, Dakota Musselman and Brayden Engen. They have been huge assets to helping the Falcons to back-to-back state trips and a 23-2 record the past two seasons, the most prolific two-year span in FC history.