In Minnesota high school’s version of the battle for the Little Brown Jug, the Waconia Wildcats stayed undefeated by beating the rival Chaska Hawks. The Wildcats used a dominating defense and great special teams to walk away with a soggy 16-0 victory.
Good field position gave Chaska the ball in Waconia territory, but before they could get into scoring range, Defensive lineman Parker Althaus recovered a fumble forced by defensive end Brenden Carlson. Although the offense only picked up a couple of first downs a 50-yard punt flipped field position into Waconia’s favor.
The defense would get the ball right back for the offense by forcing a three and out. The center snap on the punt went over the punters head, and although the punter did a great job of avoiding a safety, the Wildcats would take over in the red zone.
The Chaska defense held strong and held the Wildcats to a 21-yard field goal from the leg of Tim Stapleton.
Offensively the Wildcats relied on quarterback Ethan Swanson for much of their production. His pass to Will Koppi went for 15-yards on a third and 11. With the wet conditions and both teams running out of the shotgun every offensive play, the center snap was a considerable factor in the first half. Both centers had trouble with the snaps, but on almost every instance Swanson was able to make what should have been five-yard losses into three-yard gains. With the conditions like they were and first downs hard to come by, Swanson’s quick feet and quick thinking kept his offense in favorable down and distance situations.
“Our coach always talks about keeping our feet moving and not taking negative plays,” Swanson explained. “I just tried to get through the first hit and make some plays. Especially when it is wet out, you just have to battle.”
A fumble on a bad snap for Chaska gave linebacker Luke Marquardt a fumble recovery and the Wildcats the ball deep in Chaska territory. Swanson did a little bit of everything to set up Waconia’s second score. He showed his power on a running play, his quick thinking on a bad snap he turned into a short gain, and his arm when he connected with Koppi on third and 8. The throw was high, but Koppi got into the air and hauled in the catch. The drive would stall, but Stapleton put three more points on the board with a 37-yard field goal.
A pair of mistakes by Chaska cost the Hawks more points. With less than a minute to play, Waconia defensive back Reis Henriksen picked off an overthrown pass. To make matters worse, the Hawks were called for a 15-yard penalty. A long run by Swanson set up Stapleton for another field goal try on the last play of the half. The junior was perfect again – again from 37 yards.
“Once our offense gets rolling we are tough to stop,” lineman Bennett Weber said. “With the weather, it was nice to be able to run the ball consistently.”
Up 9-0 the defense took over for the Wildcats. The Waconia defense didn’t allow Chaska into the red zone since early in the game.
Swanson was again at the center of the Waconia offense during the only touchdown drive by either team. He cut back across the grain for a 30-yard gain. Running back Mitchell Garnatz, who handled most of the groundwork when his quarterback didn’t run the ball, made two tough runs driving through tacklers to pick up first downs. Garnatz’s running would pay off by scoring a short touchdown run.
Up 16-0 the Wildcat defense didn’t allow the Chaska offense anywhere near the end zone.
“Our defense stepped up,” Swanson – who also starts at safety – said. “Our front seven was able to keep their running game contained.”
“It was a great win,” Weber said. “It is always a big rivalry with Chaska, and is great to take home the Jug. We played really good as a team.”
The Waconia Wildcats moved to 6-0 and will face undefeated Holy Angles next week. The Chaska Hawks fell to 3-3 and will play Bloomington Jefferson.