FOOTBALL TEAM OPENS WITH WIN OVER MAHNOMEN
It wasn’t easy, but Minneota won its 49th game in the last 50 Saturday, beating Mahnomen 34-22.
It put them one step closer to a possible state final matchup with the only team that’s beaten them in the last 50 games — the Wabasso Rabbits.
After a slow start for the second straight week, Minneota utilized a four-touchdown explosion in the second quarter and went on to upend Mahnomen in Alexandria.
The Vikings will take a 12-0 record into Saturday's 11:30 a.m. semifinal contest against Mayer Lutheran (11-1) at U.S. Bank Stadium, home of the Minneota Vikings.
Mayer Lutheran pulled an upset over Goodhue, 31-21.
Isaac Hennen ran for 158 yards in 20 carries (7.9 average) and four touchdowns; three of those coming in that second quarter. That gives the senior seven touchdowns on the ground in the past two weeks.
The Vikings started out the game as though they would dominate as they typically do. After getting the opening kickoff on its own 40, Minneota came out firing with Alex Pohlen connecting with Thomas Hennen on a 40-yard pass down to the Mahnomen 20. But the Vikings were stopped at the 18 and came away empty.
“We typically come out strong in the first quarter,” said Coach Chad Johnston. “And it looked like that was going to be the case again after we came out with that big pass play right away. But we uncharacteristically stalled.”
The Vikings stopped Mahnomen on its opening drive and forced the Section 8A champs to punt on its own 27. But Minneota coughed up the ball and Mahnomen's Dan Snetsinger recovered at the Indians' own 49.
Quarterback Jon Starkey capped a 12-play 51-yard drive with a one-yard sneak for a touchdown. Starkey carried the ball on nine of those plays. Starkey connected with Jameson Beckman for the two-point conversion and an 8-0 lead.
Minneota was held scoreless in the first quarter for the second straight game after not being held without a point in the opening stanza the previous 10 games.
This game was nearly an exact replica of last week’s Section 5A title game against BOLD. Minneota was held scoreless over the first 12 minutes of that game before rallying from a 14-0 deficit by scoring five unanswered touchdowns en route to a 35-22 victory.
“We stopped (Mahnomen) after our first drive stalled, but we gave them the ball right back on a turnover and they went down and scored. We got things rolling a lot better in the second quarter. You'd like to do that for all four quarters, but it doesn't always work that way.”
On the ensuing possession, Minneota chewed up 67 yards in 11 plays, all on the ground, and scored on Hennen's 14-yard scamper. The two-point conversion attempt failed and the Vikings trailed Mahnomen, 8-6.
The deficit was short-lived, however, as Minneota's Ethan Krier recovered a fumble by Starkey at the Mahnomen 33.
Isaac Hennen then broke off runs of nine and 21 yards, before scoring from three yards out. Again, the conversion attempt failed but Minneota took a 12-8 lead with 7:40 remaining in the first half.
Mahnomen regained the lead briefly after Chris Busche's 22-yard scoring run capped a 76-yard drive to make it 14-12.
Starting at its own 35 on the ensuing possession, Minneota came up with the biggest plat of the game when Pohlen connected with Thomas Hennen on a 65-yard scoring strike, followed by Isaac Hennen’s conversion run for a 20-14 lead.
One of the biggest keys to the win for Minneota was Mahnomen’s decision to go for it on fourth-and-three at its own 37 with 2:37 left in the first half even though it was trailing by just six points.
Because Mahnomen lacks a quality passing game (the Indians completed just 1-of-7 passes for 32 yards) Starkey was then stopped on a keeper for no gain by a host of Vikings.
Five plays later, Isaac Hennen swept around left end for an eight-yard TD run and a 26-14 lead with 1:11 remaining.
“That was a big stop for us. Mahnomen had been doing a good job of finding gaps and spreading us out,” said Johnston. “They had converted several first downs (five-of-seven for the game). One of the things we talked about in this game was not letting Starkey get off the edge. I thought we did a good job of that.”
Mahnomen got good field position following the kickoff, but with time running out the Indians were forced to throw the ball. On third-and-1 on the Minneota 49, Starkey’s pass was picked off by Pohlen to end the half.
Each team reached the end zone once more in the second half; Mahnomen first on seven-yard run by Busche with 1:30 remaining in the third quarter, and Isaac Hennen recording is fourth score from 13 yards out with 9:56 remaining in the game.
Pohlen completed nine of 12 passes for 171 yards and a touchdown, giving the senior signal-caller 27 touchdowns and over 7,000 yards passing on the season.
“I know they were nervous about our passing game,” said Johnston. “They don’t see a lot of that in the section they play. And they were keying on Isaac, which opened some other things up for us.”
Thomas Hennen finished with four catches for 130 yards, his second 100-yard receiving game of the year.
“Coaches wanted us to come out aggressive right away and spread things out,” said Hennen, a junior receiver who has 43 receptions for 788 yards on the season.
“They were in a zone and just stayed in a zone and I ran a vertical (on the 40-yard reception to start the game) and got open.”
On the 65-yard TD pass, Hennen again ran a vertical.
“We put Isaac in the backfield and they were focused on him,” explained Thomas Hennen. “The linebacker was looking into the backfield and I just ran past him. Alex makes it too easy sometimes. He’s a great athlete with a great arm and our line is amazing and gives him time to throw.”
Minneota outgained Mahnomen 360-258 despite running 26 less plays. The Vikings defense limited Mahnomen to a 3.5 yards-per-play average.
Busche would finish with 116 yards in 25 carries and a pair of touchdowns. Starkey, who had been averaging over 125 yards per game, was held to 83 yards in 25 totes.
Shawn Buysse led the defense with 15 tackles (8 solo).
Landon Abraham notched 11 tackles, Mitchell Rost and Isaac Hennen nine each, Ethan Krier eight, Cole VanOverbeke seven and Cole Sanow six. VanOverbeke recorded a sack.
Minneota 34, Mahnomen 22
Minneota 0 26 0 8 – 34
Mahnomen 8 6 8 0 – 22
Mahnomen – Jon Starkey 1 run (Starkey pass to Jameson Beckman)
Minneota – Isaac Hennen 14 (run failed)
Minneota – Isaac Hennen 3 run (pass failed)
Mahnomen – Chris Busche 22 run (run failed)
Minneota – Thomas Hennen 65 pass from Alex Pohlen (Isaac Hennen run)
Minneota – Isaac Hennen 8 run (run failed)
Mahnomen – Chris Busche 7 run (Chris Busche run)
Minneota – Isaac Hennen 13 run (Isaac Hennen run)
15 First Downs 16
3-8 Penalties/yards 7-73
1-0 Fumbles/Lost 2-1
32-189 Rushes/yards 58-226
171 Passing yards 32
360 Total Yards 258
RUSHING (No.-yards) – Minneota: Isaac Hennen 20-158, Cole Sanow 7-30, Alex Pohlen 4-2, Thomas Hennen 1-(-1) … Mahnomen: Chris Busche 25-116, Jon Starkey 25-83, Dan Snetsinger 8-27
PASSING (Att-com-int-yds) – Minneota: Alex Pohlen 9-12-0-171 … Mahnomen: Jon Starkey 0-7-1-0, Dan Snetsinger 1-1-0-32
RECEIVING (No-yds) – Minneota: Thomas Hennen 4-130, Isaac Hennen 3-21, Skylar Gilbertson 1-20, Cole Sanow 1-8 … Mahnomen: Logan Kettner 1-32
KICKOFF RETURNS (no-yds) – Minneota: Alex Saltzer 1-6, Brant Buysse 2-0 … Mahnomen: Bert Keezer 4-64
PUNTS (no-yds-avg) – Minneota: Alex Pohlen 4-111-41.0 … Mahnomen: Jon Starkey 2-80-40.0
PUNT RETURNS – Minneota: Brant Buysse 1-0 … Mahnomen: none
TACKLES (solo-assist) – Minneota: Shawn Buysse 8-7, Isaac Hennen 6-3, Cole Sanow 6-0, Mitchell Rost 6-3, Ethan Krier 5-3, Landon Abraham 4-7, Cole VanOverbeke 4-3, Trent Esping 3-1, Ty Lipinski 2-2, Brant Buysse 2-1, Lucas Bot 2-0, Blake Reiss 0-1, Austin Sorensen 0-1 … Mahnomen: Chris Busche 7-2, Jon Starkey 6-1, Roy Bjorge 5-1, Dan Snetsinger 2-2, Logan Kettner 1-0, Nick Podlak 1-2, Bert Keezer 1-2, Justin Littlewolf 1-1, Nathaniel Olson 1-0, Chris Podlak 0-2, Kael Snetsinger 0-1.
SACKS – Minneota: Cole VanOverbeke 1 … Mahnomen: none
TACKLES FOR LOSS – Minneota: VanOverbeke 1, Trent Esping 1 … Mahnomen: none
INTERCEPTIONS – Minneota: Pohlen 1 … Mahnomen: none
FUMBLE RECOVERIES – Minneota: Ethan Krier 1 … Mahnomen: Dan Snetsinger 1.