Although the Rochester Lourdes Eagles were defeated soundly in their quarter final rematch from last year’s 3A title game by St. Croix Lutheran the resilience of the team over the entire 2017 season cannot be denied. They came into the…
Although the Rochester Lourdes Eagles were defeated soundly in their quarter final rematch from last year’s 3A title game by St. Croix Lutheran the resilience of the team over the entire 2017 season cannot be denied. They came into the game with a 9-2 record. Three of their victories – including a playoff opening victory over La Crescent – were by three points or less.
It was evident early that the Eagles’ talent level was a step below the undefeated Crusaders but there were still plenty of individual performances that reminded me of the team that won that epic title game last season.
Defensive tackle Matthew Bowers stood out from the first snap of the game. On the first defensive sequence of the game he made a tackle for a short loss and a few plays later he had his second tackle on the interior.
Later Bowers and linebacker Jake Groteboer combined for a tackle for a short gain. Then Groteboer filled the hole and made a solo stop on an off-tackle run. Ben Limburg and Groteboer combined to tackle a running back for a short gain. Limburg would also recover two fumbles – one of which he returned for ten yards.
Limburg also stood out on special teams. He punted three balls over 40-yards – including a 45 yarder in the first half.
Defensive tackle Noah Borgeson was also was hard for the Crusaders to handle. Early in the game he made a tackle for a short gain. In the second half Borgeson showed his athletic ability by pursuing down the line of scrimmage to tally a tackle for a short gain.
With solid early line play outside linebacker Mark Ustby took advantage and came down the line of scrimmage to make a tackle in the interior of the line. Fellow linebacker Andrew Peine contained an option play and made an open-field tackle. If Peine would have missed, it would have gone for big yards. Later Peine made a pair of stops on off tackle runs and a pair of stops on runs that were either designed or were bounced to the outside.
In the secondary Trey Billmeier intercepted a pass from his safety spot. He also covered the deep ball well. Coming over from the safety position he broke up two passes. Against the run he came up hard in run support and made an open field tackle. Matthew Hayford also played physically with an open field tackle stopping the option for a short gain.
Hayford’s biggest contribution was at quarterback. He didn’t throw the ball often, but he showed good touch on a pair of deep balls. He connected with Jimmy Fritzjunker for a 25-yard for a walk-in touchdown. Hayford and Fritzjunker did nearly the exact same thing later in the game. This time the completion covered 70 yards before Fritzjunker was forced out of bounds.
Hayford’s most impressive – and risky – moment came running the option. As he was being hit he threw a pitch overhand to Pat Leary for a 15-yard gain.
Offensively most of the running game’s success came up the middle behind center Bowers. Groteboer – a physical runner – had one of the Eagles best runs up the middle behind Bowers.
Groteboer is not just a physical runner – he is a physical blocker. His lead block sprung Leary on a 74 yard run, behind linemen Riley Schaefer, Alex Lindeen and tight end Zach Nickels.
Two of the Eagles’ touchdowns came right between the guards. A short Zach Jungels’ touchdown run was followed by a 26-yard Jungles’ touchdown.
As St. Croix Lutheran wore down the Eagles the big plays came more frequently for the Crusaders. Ultimately the game got out of hand but not before plenty of Eagles showed why they were in the state tournament.