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Gophers Bury Nuggets, Make Prep Bowl

Fri, Nov 22nd, 2013
Posted in All Sports

One would think, with all the yellow helmets around Chatfield tailback Jake Neis, that he’d be hemmed in. But Neis took this run to the house. Hawley defenders rarely hemmed in Gopher RB’s. With nearly 500 yards rushing, Chatfield dispensed with the Nuggetts 41-21 and moved on to the Class AA title game. Photo by Paul Trende

It’s long been known, that the 3-Rivers conference is a mecca for great football, great football teams. From the 1995 season where two teams won state titles (Chatfield Class C, Kingsland Class B), to the 2002 season which saw three 3-Rivers teams win state titles (R-P in Class A, Kingsland in Class AA, P-E-M in Class AAA), to Rushford-Peterson’s five state appearances in the 2000’s, to Caledonia’s recent run atop Class AA; area squads often find their toughest competition very close to home. If they can get out of their own section the sky is often times the limit. Well the 2013 Chatfield Gophers got out of their own section, past the Caledonia’s vaunted program. Their next two opponents haven’t offered up nearly as difficult a challenges. The Gophers (11-1) followed up a 32-6 win over Jackson County Central in the state quarterfinals, with an even more impressive 41-21 win over Hawley (10-1), the Section 8AA champion, in the state semifinals at the Metrodome. The Gophers buried the Nuggets, poetically with a great ground game, to move on to the Prep Bowl. They are at the sky.

Chatfield showed its up-front dominance right out of the gate. Their offensive line, the beasts incarnate, Sawyer Prinsen, Brandon Adler, Tommy Jech, Michael Mabe, Ian Morrison, T.J. Moechnig, and Jayme LaPlante at tight end, exerted their superiority right out of the gates. Gopher runners ripped off impressive run after impressive run from basically start to finish. A trio of double digit gallops, two by Jake Neis, one by Alex Bradt, on Chatfield’s first series, garnered the Gophers a first and goal. Three plays later, a Neis 2-yard plunge put Chatfield up 6-0. Hawley ran three plays, punted, and it was back to the Gopher ground game. Some Neis, some Bradt, a sprinkling of Nate Skare, and then a 14-yard Alex Haffner run set the Gophers up first and goal on the one. Another Neis TD run (1-yard) made it 12-0. Early in the second quarter, Chatfield picked up where they left off. A Neis 40-yard run got the Gophers into the red zone. Two plays later, Bradt churned his way up the gut for a 10-yard TD making it 19-0. After a Hawley 3-and-out, it was more from the Chatfield office of offensive redundancy. A 19-yard Skare to Drew Hurley completion got things started. From there, it was Bradt, Skare, and Neis on the ground. Jake’s third TD of the half, on 4th and goal from the two, made it 26-0. In between all that, Chatfield’s defense made life miserable for an opposing QB for the second straight week. Jordan Harms was sacked four times in the first half, two by sophomore Carter Duxbury (who is sick of his sister Alex hogging the spotlight), and one each by Ian Morrison and Dalton Schwier. The ‘team’ also got credited with a sack; a Hawley snap went over Harms’ head through the end zone for a safety. The Gophers scored on their first four possessions, held Hawley to 28 total yards including negative 37 rushing, and went to intermission up 28-0!

Naturally, Chatfield wasn’t so ‘up’ to play from there. A trio of third quarter Gopher drives made Hawley territory (21, 1, and 28-yardlines), but one ended on a fumble and the other two on failed 4th down plays. The Nuggets finally got on the board late in the quarter courtesy of a little trickeration, a double reverse pass from Dalton Leaf to 6’4” 206-pound TE Ben Ellefson that covered 72-yards (28-7 Chatfield). The Gophers got that score back early in the 4th quarter. Bradt matriculated the ball to the Hawley 1-yardline on a 21-yard run. A Skare 1-yard TD plunge pushed Chatfield’s lead to 34-7. The Nuggets made it a little interesting in their desperate attempt at a big comeback. Back-to-back big pass plays (54 and 24 yards) allowed Chris Buttke to find pay-dirt from 1-yard away (34-13 Chatfield). They then on-sided, recovered, scored again, an Ellefson 3-yard TD run, and got the two-point conversion. With 5:54 left, Hawley had slim hopes, but hope, trailing 34-21. Jake Neis squelched all of that. After Drew Hurley recovered another Hawley onside, Neis broke off a 49-yard TD run, his fourth score of the day. That ended it. By a final of 41-21, Chatfield earned its first spot in a Prep Bowl since 1996.

Neis finished with 26 carries for 236 yards and 4 TD’s. Bradt finished with 15 carries for 155 yards and a TD. Skare had nine carries for 30 and a TD. He was also five of seven on kick-off touchbacks. All told, the Gophers ran up 503 yards of total offense with 484 of it coming on the ground. They average 7.6 yards per attempt on a whopping 64 carries! Neis and Bradt averaged 9.0 and 10.3 per carry respectively! The Gophers had just one carry for negative yardage. They dominated. The Nuggets, meanwhile, had just one team rushing yard. They had 241 yards of offense with 240 coming thru the air. Ellefson (2 receptions, 103 yards, TD; rushing TD) and Leaf (1-1 passing, 72 yards TD; 2 receptions 59 yards) were the Nuggets leaders. The win moved Chatfield’s record to 12-1. They will face Minneota/Lincoln HI (Ivanhoe) for the 2013 Class AA State Title. The Vikings downed Maple Lake 50-24 in their state semifinal.

Boys Basketball Preview

The 2013-2014 winter sports season, as it pertains to basketball, is going to start differently than usual. The boys will begin first. They’ll begin a full two weeks earlier than last year. The girls’ season starts like normal. The reason for this alteration deals with a scheduling conflict in March at the Target Center, the site of both state tournaments. It is hosting a season-ending tournament for the newly formed National Collegiate Hockey Conference when the boys basketball tournament normally takes place. And thus, to use the facility, the MSHSL moved up the boys tournament by two weeks (hence the season).

As for things that won’t change, Rushford-Peterson boys basketball again seems destined to headline the Fillmore County hoops scene. It’s actually kind of scary to think, after back-to-back state third Place finishes, and a co-3-Rivers Conference title last season, that this year’s Trojans will be better. For the first time in a while, Tom Vix’s varsity is all juniors (9) and seniors (7). They are experienced, and experienced in big games. Seniors Jorli Hauge (6’4” F > 9.2 PPG, 6.2 RPG), Seth Thompson (6’2” G/F > 8.3 PPG, 3.6 RPG), and Austin O’Hare (6’3” G/F > 10.2 PPG, 3.7 RPG), and junior Cole Kingsley (6’0” F > 10.7 PPG, 4.8 APG, 3.8 RPG, 3.1 SPG), all have been huge parts of the last two successful state runs. Juniors Alex Vix (5’9” G > 7.1 PPG, 2.1 SPG) and Charlie Krambeer (6’0” G > 89 made three’s at a 40.7% clip) were big in last year’s run. The Trojans thus return their top six from a 2012-2013 team that went 28-4; yikes! Hauge, O’Hare, and Kingsley are All-Conference players, the other three Honorable Mention. Kingsley might miss a few weeks per a hand injury, but it’s safe to say R-P is a favorite for the 3-Rivers title, and the favorite for the Sub-Section 1A-East and Section 1A titles.

A team R-P will certainly have a couple tussles with the Chatfield Gophers. Tom Bance’s squad lost to Cotter a season ago in the 1AA East quarterfinals. They finished with a 15-12 record. They return three starters, leading scorer, All-Conference sharpshooter Nate Skare (6’2” G > 12.7 PPG, 4.6 RPG), physically gifted All-Conference interior player Jayme LaPlante (6’3” F/C > 10.8 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 60.8% FG’s), and Honorable Mention combo-point guard Jake Neis (5’10” > 8.0 PPG, 4.8 APG, 3.5 RPG). That’s a very nice trio. Also back are Christian Bance (6’0” G) and Brandon Adler (6’5” F/C). The Gophers certainly have the talent to make a run, but they’ll probably again start slow. Four of the five named players are key pieces on the Gopher football team that made it to the state final. It might take the Chosen Valley boys until after Christmas to truly get their basketball legs.

Rounding out the county’s 3-Rivers teams are the Kingsland Knights and Fillmore Central Falcons. Both finished in about the exact same place a year ago. John Fenske’s Knights went 7-20, losing in the first round of the 1AA-West play-offs to Lake City. FC, who is now coached by Aaron Mensink, bowed to R-P in the Sub-Section 1A East semis. They went 7-21. The Knights seem the most poised for improvement. A move down to Class A will certainly help come post-season. They return all but two players from the 2012-2013 squad. Quinn Larson (6’0” soph G) is a player to watch. As a freshman, Larson had a trio of 20-plus point games in the last half of the season. From there, Coach Fenske has experienced players in seniors Lenny Moore (5’9” PG) and Jordan Meskill (5’11” G), and juniors Marcus Plaehn (6’2” F), Julius Wolf (6’2” F), Isiah Bubany (5’9” G), and Jacob Rindels (5’10” G). For Coach Mensink and FC, Nick Powell (A-C HM) is his best asset. The 6’3” senior can pretty much rise up over anyone, and is the Falcon’s returning scorer (13.2) and rebounder (8.2). Logan Masters (5’7” senior) returns to run the point, but from there, only Quentin Case (6’3” senior F) and Carter Rindels (6’2” senior F) saw much action a year ago. Mensink we’ll need to rely on new juniors to varsity, or seniors who only played sparingly a season ago.

In the SEC, the Lanesboro Burros shared the league title with Spring Grove last year. They brought home a 1A East runner-up trophy (lost to R-P) and finished with a 19-8 record. They’ll look to continue those winning ways, led by a pair of superb All-Conference seniors, Kole Ruud and Luke Rogers. Ruud (6’0” G) is the returning SEC Player of the Year. He averaged 22.0 PPG a season ago. Rogers (6’1” G/F) is incredibly versatile (18.6 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 2.8 APG) and will likely again stuff the stat sheet. Starting PG Garret Boggs (5’10” senior) also returns to run the team. From there, head coach John Smith will turn to a relatively unproven group to supply minutes, but the high-octane Burros should again be a treat to watch. They’ll put points up in bunches and contend in the SEC.

In Mabel, head coach Doug Wyffels’ team is all about continuity. This year’s squad is essentially last year’s squad. It will boast five experienced seniors, a cast headed by Noah Manning, Justin Ward, and Hunter Johnson. Manning (6’0” > 10.5 PPG, 7.5 RRG, 4.4 AGP) is a versatile PG who flirted with a triple-double a couple times a season ago. Ward (5’11” F > 11.9 PPG) posted a pair of 25-point games in the early part of last season, before an ankle injury slowed him down. Each were All-SEC Honorable Mention. Johnson (6’0” G/F > 12.7 PPG) is the team’s returning leading scorer. Seniors Mac Nelson (5’11” F) and Collin O’Bieglo (6’1’ F), and juniors Keyser Wenthold (5’7” G), Donnie Lind (5’11” F), and Wesley Richert (5’8” G) are also varsity veterans. The Cougars will look to improve greatly on last season’s finish (7-20, lost to Lanesboro in 1A East quarterfinals).

The Houston Hurricanes, after contending in the SEC in 2010-2011 and 2011-2012, did an about face. They finished last season with just two wins versus 24 losses, falling to M-C in a 1A-East play-in game. Jason Carrier’s squad does return a number of players with experience, headed by returning senior starters Sam Ross (5’10” F), Mason Drake (6’2” F), and Christian Sires (6’0” G). Ross led the ‘Canes in scoring (8.5 per), rebounding (6.0 per), and was All-SEC HM last year. Drake (8.0 per) was the team’s second leading scorer. Sam Schneider (6’1” senior F) is a fourth returning player who saw action in every game a season ago. After the 2012-2013 campaign, there really is nowhere to go but up for the ‘Canes.

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