Two turnovers on Zimmerman's first two offensive snaps Saturday night led to quick scoring drives for fourth-seeded Big Lake and a 14-0 first quarter lead. On paper and with the eye test I thought Zimmerman would at least be able…
Two turnovers on Zimmerman's first two offensive snaps Saturday night led to quick scoring drives for fourth-seeded Big Lake and a 14-0 first quarter lead. On paper and with the eye test I thought Zimmerman would at least be able to mount a comeback and if not win – at least make a game of it. As they drove down the field and got their offense in position with a first and goal and then a fourth and goal from the one-yard line, I thought, ‘okay, here is where they get back in the game.' I was wrong.
Big Lake's defense not only stuffed the Thunder on fourth and less than a yard but they mounted a 99-yard touchdown drive to go up 21-0. Just before halftime it was game, set, match and a second straight berth in the Section finals for the Hornets.
The game would end with Big Lake winning going away 28-6. Here are some of the reasons why.
Running back Deon Harris was the Hornets' primary offensive weapon. Operating exclusively out of the shotgun he showed versatility. The junior showed his cutback ability that got him free for a 37-yard touchdown run through a huge hole opened up by offensive linemen Joey Caligiuri and Spencer Pearson. Harris later picked up a third and three up the middle behind guards Caligiuri and Nick Harris, and center Will Gomez. During the critical 99-yard drive on a 4th and one, Harris ran behind Caligiuri, Nick Harris and center Gomez for a first down at mid-field.
“Our line,” Big Lake head coach Nick Keenan said, “both offensively and defensively won the game for us.”
Deon Harris showed he didn't always need perfect blocking to be effective. He was hit behind the line of scrimmage, fought off the tackle and picked up four yards when it should have been a loss of four. On third and fourteen Harris ran a wheel route and made the catch for a first down. Quarterback Spencer Hinrichs dropped a perfect pass over Harris' shoulder for the completion. The route was covered well, but Hinrichs placed the ball perfectly. Late in the game, Harris made another sharp cutback run behind Caligiuri and Pearson for a 32-yard touchdown right up the middle.
Hinrichs was a threat to run even more than to pass. Hinrichs dropped a shotgun snap, but kept his composure and scrambled around the right side and scored from 24-yards out. Later, the 99-yard touchdown drive doesn't happen if Hinrichs doesn't make two clutch runs – one on each side coming off the goal line. He didn't throw much, but with the Hornets' offense center Gomez snaps the ball to either Harris or Hinrichs, so the quarterback has to be a runner and a blocker.
Hinrichs also can throw the ball. In addition to his nearly perfect pass to Harris, he connected with Deon's twin brother – tight end Devonne Harris on a down and out route. Devonne blocked well to spring his brother on some of his outside runs, but his most significant impact was on defense.
With excellent coverage from his defensive backs, Devonne was able to track the quarterback down from behind. Later Harris strung out the running back toward the sidelines and allowed just a short gain. He put pressure on the quarterback and again ran down the quarterback – this time for a short gain. Devonne was good against the run too. He came down the line of scrimmage from his defensive end position to make a tackle in the middle of the line. He got into the backfield and forced the runner into the middle of the field where teammates made the tackle for a loss. Later in the game, he immediately got into the backfield and sacked quarterback before he could get his feet set. Finally, along with Thomas Daniels – who would also recover a fumble – got good pressure on quarterback late in the game to force an intentional grounding,
“Those guys give us everything they've got every single play,” Big Lake head coach Nick Keenan said about the Harris twins.
Although Devonne stood out – the entire defensive line was critical trying to stop the Thunder's offense.
Nick Harris got good penetration and forced a short gain while Jake Ireland strung out a sweep and then stopped it for a short gain.
Especially in the first half, Big Lake had success running behind Gomez, Ireland and Devonne Harris.
“We've got guys like Pearson, Caligiuri, Gomez, Nick Harris and Ireland,” Keenan told northstarfootballnews.com. “It is nothing pretty, but we block down and kick out. Our offense is built on power and deception.”
Trey Teige is small but quick on sweeps and the occasional end around. His best run – for thirty yards – was behind Ireland. On defense, the corner made a big open field tackle and broke up passes against much taller receivers.
“Usually the match up for me is I am against a taller guy,” Teige said. “I just try to be in the best position I can be defensively and make plays.”
Gomez must shotgun snap to one of two guys in the backfield on every play. As a center, he also can pull and executed a textbook kick out block to spring Teige.
Two other defensive backs made noticeable. Luke Hettler was in one-on-one coverage and used sidelines to force an incompletion. Later he made two open-field tackles – one that likely saved a touchdown. Colin Suitter read a swing pass and – like Hettler wrapped up the running back in the open field.
Big Lake's victory sent the Hornets to Monticello to face Becker on Saturday with a chance to go to State.