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Fillmore Central Falcons Morgan Malley (prominent middle), Leah Scheevel and Tayah Barnes (left), Larissa Armstrong and Taylor Case (right), and Sara Schultz (far right) experience the ‘thrill of victory’ after knocking off Mabel-Canton. They then beat Faribault B.A., clinching FC’s first ever trip to state in volleyball. Photo by Paul Trende
FC Plows Through One Tradition…
For Fillmore Central volleyball, ‘sections’ week was as much a mental challenge as it was a physical one. Ranked #2 in state, the Falcons entered as both the Sub-Section and Section favorites. But they also entered as the squad new to the Class A volleyball power scene. Fillmore Central thus had to let their superb physical abilities overcome the rich traditions of their two foes, long-time Class A volleyball powers Mabel-Canton and Faribault B.A..
First was a re-match with the 2nd-seeded Cougars (33-2, #7). A year ago, the Falcons collapsed in the 1A East semifinals versus M-C, losing the match 3-2 after leading 2-0 and 9-2 in game three. They had to mentally overcome that haunting memory. They went about doing so in an interesting way. The first minutes of the 2013 1A East final were a volleyball hitting fans delight. The teams exchanged hammered scores, tying at every point up to 16 (save for 5). Twenty-one of those 32 points were via kill. M-C then used talented seniors Belle Sand and Sara Lind to score 10 of the final 12 points, to post a first game 25-18 victory. At that point, FC couldn’t blow a 2-0 lead, so they commenced playing Falcon volleyball. They got up early in game two (7-3), expanded the lead a bit later (15-6), and didn’t look back enroot to a 25-16 win. Game three was closer, with five early ties. But a 6-0 Falcon run (three Tori Peterson kills) put FC up 13-7. With it 18-16, freshmen Tayah Barnes scored a couple kills, and then junior Morgan Malley two more on setter attacks, and then a block. FC scored the final seven points for the 25-16 win, the 2-1 advantage. Game four was similar to game three, with ties early (at 1, 3, 6, 10, and 11). With it 15-14 FC, the Falcons went to Taylor Case. After four, five, and three kills in the first three sets, she had eight in the final game (21 total with 17 digs). Four were in a 6-1 FC run that made the score 21-15. FC’s fast-paced, relentless offense had M-C pressing. After eight hitting errors in games 1-3 combined, M-C had seven alone in game four (unofficially). In the end, FC went Case’s best accomplice on the night, MH Leah Scheevel. The 5’9” junior’s 16th kill sent FC volleyball nation into jubilation. The Falcons closed out the game 25-19, and the match 3-1. They are the 2013 Sub-Section 1A East champions.
In addition to Case and Scheevel, there were Falcon juniors Malley (setter) and Sara Schultz (libero). With 51 assists, five kills, seven digs, and 1.5 blocks, plus 18-18 serving, Morgan was everywhere. With a game-high 29 digs (plus 25-26 on serve receive), Schultz was superb defensively. Peterson added 8 kills, Barnes 6 kills (four in game three) and 16 digs, and Larissa Armstrong 11 digs. For M-C, it was an extra-tough loss. Five outstanding seniors played their last game, headed by five-year players Belle Sand (13 kills, 14 digs), Lydia Geving (12 kills, 12 digs), and Carly McCabe (41 assists, 12 digs). Sara Lind, who, after not playing volleyball until her sophomore year, evolved into a true force (13 kills, 3 blocks). Libero Christine Lee has been a steady defender and a team-high 22 digs was evidence. The Cougars end with a 33-3 record, as 1A East runners-up.
…And Then Another
After overcoming the M-C hurdle, FC’s next was Class A’s pre-imminent power Faribault B.A (West’s 1-seed, 18-11, #4 in state) in a battle of absolute tradition versus, well, no tradition at all. B.A. entered the two-time defending Class A state champion. They’ve won six state titles since 2003 and played in every state final since 2002 (save for 2009). That’s either 1st or 2nd every year since 2002 (save for 2009). But every year is a new one and, 2013 is the year of the Falcon.
Fillmore got an early 6-0 run to take a 12-5 lead in game one. They’d lead by at least three the rest of the way enroot to a 25-17 win. In game two, FC again led, 10-6 on the back of a 6-0 run, and 19-13 on the back of a 6-1 run. But B.A.’s program just doesn’t give away absolutely important games. The Cardinals shored up their hitting and rallied with an 8-2 run to tie the game at 21. With it 24-all, B.A. got a kill from talented junior OH Lauren Mathews, and then an ace from Shelby Meyer to win 26-24. They evened the match at 1-1. Game three saw B.A. ride the momentum of the win to early leads, but trailing 8-6, the Falcons scored five straight (up 11-8). Leading 13-12, they scored four without an answer (up 17-12). B.A. closed to down 21-18, but FC got a pair of kills each from senior’s Case and Peterson to get the 25-18 win, a 2-1 advantage. They then rode that momentum into game four, jumping out 9-2 and 21-10. From there, the anticipation was almost too much for the FC girls to bear. B.A. closed to 23-17 and then 24-21. The Falcons failed to nail down section title/state birth point four times (24-18 thru 24-21). B.A. fought even harder towards the end, actually scoring 11 of the game’s final 15 points. But four points was winner-winner, we’re going to state, dinner. The last came from the Falcons ace. I’ll give you two guesses who it is, but you’ll only need one. The gal known as ‘Tay’ went back-corner line on an attack for the game, the match, the section title, and the state birth, FC’s first. The Falcons downed B.A. 3-1 (25-17, 24-26, 25-18, 25-21). Taylor led the way with 20 kills, 25 digs, and perfect 24-24 serving. Fellow senior Tori Peterson, did what seniors do in crunch time and took the initiative. After three combined kills in games one and two, she had 11 (14 total) over the last two games. Sammi Bakke also had 14 kills plus 2.5 blocks. Sara Schultz (24 digs, 28-30 serve receive) and Morgan Malley (52 assists, 4 kills, 10 digs, 1.5 blocks) were again brilliant. B.A. was led by Mathews (18 kills, 17 digs, 2 aces, 2 blocks), Payton Nutter (10 kills, 11 digs), and Nichole Van Horn (35 assists, 11 digs), their only senior starter. B.A. will be back to greatness next year.
It’s not just the first state birth in volleyball for Fillmore Central. It’s the first state birth in anything in the school’s 20-plus year history post-consolidation, as it pertains to solely Fillmore Central sports. The FC/L/M-C wrestling program went in 1999.
Because of the two big wins, FC (33-2) was the top seed in the state tournament. They deserved that top spot. They played Ada-Borup and won 3 sets to 1. Of the schools ranked in the last Class A volleyball poll (Oct. 21), FC has beaten 7 of the top 11 and 8 of the top 13. They are 8-0 (19-4 set record) versus the best in their Class. Both Franz Boelter and Lonnie Morken, the esteemed B.A. and M-C coaches, echoed the sentiment that the best/better team won in each of the matches, quite a compliment to the FC girls.
Skare FG, Riley INT, in OT, End Warriors Reign
It’s been awhile since Chatfield (#9) last beat Caledonia (#1) in football. It’s been 10 games, the 2006 season. The last three losses, have been agony. In 2012’s regular season meeting, a virtual stalemate went 6-0 in Caledonia’s favor. Then the Warriors humiliated Chatfield in the 2012 Section title game 29-0, holding the Goph’s to one yard at halftime, and no first downs until the 4th quarter. In this year’s season opener, the Gophers were better than Caledonia (400 yards offense to 250), but also worse (three missed PAT’s, a missed FG, and five TO’s). Chatfield fell 19-18. All of that is now water under the bridge.
Caledonia started fast in the 2013 Section 1AA title game. After a Gopher fumble, on the Warriors first offensive play from scrimmage, senior QB Mason DeMorett threw a perfect bomb to Sam Schulte. The 80-yard pitch and catch, plus PAT, made it 7-0 Warriors. Chatfield answered back in the 2nd quarter. I’ll give you two guesses who did it, but you’ll only need one. Jake Neis authored a Jake Neis run. He took a hand-off left, went through a hole, and then cut-back against the grain to daylight before speeding to pay-dirt. The 40-yard TD made the score 7-7. That’s where it would stood at halftime.
In the second half, Chatfield’s defense repeatedly got tested. Caledonia’s first three series’ all wound up inside the Gopher ten. The first was turned away on 4th and 5 from the Gopher 7 (incompletion). The second attained a first and goal from the two, but a pair of penalties (including an aiding the runner) pushed Caledonia back. They settled for a 26-yard Mason Ashbacher FG, a 10-7 lead. Chatfield got the score back quickly. Skare hit Drew Hurley for 42 yards. He then kicked a 37-yard FG to begin the 4th to tie the score at 10-10. The third Warrior possession, midway through the 4th, got to a 2nd and 6 from the Gopher 7. A Ryan Pitts TD run was then nullified by a penalty. The Warriors again settled for a FG, but Ashbacher’s 31-yard attempt was no good. Chatfield then put together a small drive, but punted. Caledonia put together a bigger drive, to the Gopher 27 (0:54 left), only to suffer a set-back on a holding penalty. On the last play of regulation, West Spier’s 42-yard game-winning FG was partially blocked. Tied at 10, a game between two teams, one hell bent on retribution, hell bent on knocking off a dynasty, the other a dynasty hell bent on keeping it that way, went to overtime.
Chatfield lost the flip and got the ball first (1st and goal on the 10-yardline, per MSHSL OT rules). They ran three plays for no yards. Skare saved the possession by kicking a 27-yard FG. Caledonia took over needing a TD for the win. On first down, DeMorett rolled to his right looking for an out-type pass pattern. He threw. He hit Gopher #3 A.J. Riley who, coincidentally, had been burned on the Warrior TD pass early in the game. Riley secured the pick, hit the ground. Head Coach Jeff Johnson was there to commend him almost as fast as the officials could signal the game was over. Swarms of Gopher fans were on the field nearly as quickly. Chatfield fire trucks were waiting in Troy to triumphantly usher the boys into town. By a final of 13-10, the Gopher football team downed the dynasty, got retribution, and punched its first trip to state since 1999.
Neis (26 carries, 130 yards, TD) and Pitts (31-134 yards), the SFA Blue’s two best RB’s, dueled all game long, carrying each of their teams loads. Hurley (3 receptions, 76 yards) and Schulte (3-88, TD) the same on the outside. But the game wasn’t just about Chatfield’s retribution, it was also about Riley’s retribution, and then Nate Skare’s retribution. Skare on top of his offensive duties (5-10, 86 yards passing; 4 carries, 21 yards rushing), was 2-3 on FG’s including the game-tying boot in regulation, and the game-winner in OT. In the season-opener, he was 0-3 on PAT’s and 0-1 on FG’s.
In the state quarterfinals at RCTC, the 10-1 Gophers will face a familiar school, Section 3AA champ 10-1 Jackson County Central. JCC knocked off the Goph wrestling team in the semifinals of state last season. Coach Johnson’s high school alma mater, Pine Island, won the Section 2AA title. They are coached by John Stapleton, a former teammate of Johnson’s on the WSU football team. The Panthers are in the upper half of the bracket, Chatfield the lower. Opposite the Chatfield-JCC game, is Hawley-Holdingford. The Gophers last state title (1996) came over Hawley.