Lourdes, 2014 Class AAA Minnesota State Champions

Eagles win 13 straight, defeat New London-Spicer to win title

 
Cameron Mellor (@CamMellor)
February 18, 2015

 

 

For the second time in five seasons, Lourdes High School football team was crowned champions of Minnesota’s Class AAA. The 2014 campaign echoed the Eagles’ 2010 season as both squads finished the season undefeated and looked impressive in doing so.

 

In 2014, Lourdes fired on all cylinders, starting with their very first game against Lewiston-Altura. In the game against the Cardinals, Lourdes scored in three different ways in the first half alone, including returning a fumble for a touchdown early in the first quarter. The Eagles had six different players score in the 46-14 rout of Lewiston-Altura.

 

In week two, Lourdes again looked impressive, building a 51-7 lead in the third quarter, before ultimately defeating La Crescent, 51-20 to improve to 2-0.

 

Against a higher classified Kasson-Mantorville squad, Lourdes may have looked their most impressive, building a 35-0 lead heading in to the fourth quarter. The Eagles defeated the Komets, 35-13 behind three touchdown passes from quarterback Noah Hillman and two rushing touchdowns by running back Zach Hillman.

 

Running back Mason Carstens had himself an impressive game in week four against Cannon Falls, rushing just seven times for 112 yards and three scores. Lourdes defense also played a major role in the 39-0 defeat of the Bombers.

 

Lourdes continued imposing their will, all the way to the end of the regular season, defeating Plainview-Elgin-Millville, 37-7, defeating Stewartville, 32-14, Lake City, 36-7 and Byron, 49-12.

 

They opened their 2014 playoff run against Lake City, whom they had just defeated, two weeks earlier.

 

In their first matchup, Lourdes scored 15 points in a matter of five minutes to open the game, and didn’t look back. In their second meeting, the Eagles didn’t quite score as fast, but did build a 21-0 lead in the first half before shutting out the Tigers, 42-0, to advance.

 

Carstens and Zach Hillman each ran for over 100 yards as the Eagles had five different players record a touchdown against Lake City.

 

In round two of the playoffs, another rematch presented itself to the Eagles, as Plainview-Elgin-Millville would come to Rochester. The Bulldogs were limited to just 145 total yards in the first meeting, and while they may have gained 343 yards in their postseason matchup, Lourdes built a 39-0 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

 

Plainview-Elgin-Millville gained the majority of their yards in the fourth quarter, after the game was in hand for the Eagles, as they defeated the Bulldogs, 39-14.

 

In their state quarterfinals matchup, Lourdes would be pitted against defending champion St. Croix Lutheran, in what would be their toughest game to date.

 

The Eagles didn’t let the hype of the defending champions or an early 14-6 deficit get in their way however, answering with 22 unanswered points before taking a 23-21 lead into halftime.

 

After increasing their lead to 30-21 in the third quarter, St. Croix Lutheran closed the gap with a score on the first play of the fourth quarter, inching to within two points, down 30-28. That would be the closest they would get however as Lourdes shut the door with their next drive.

 

Carstens punched in a 6-yard touchdown run to increase the Eagles lead back to two possessions. Nick Steinmetz would intercept a Joshua Tietz pass on the Crusaders ensuing possession, returning it for a touchdown that sealed the victory, 43-28.

 

Advancing to the state semifinals for the third season in a row, Lourdes would have to get by the undefeated Pierz Pioneers if they wanted to advance to the state championship game.

 

The Eagles did just that. And they did it in nearly the most dramatic fashion you could think of.

 

In a true back-and-forth game, Lourdes and Pierz traded scores in the first three quarters before ending the fourth, tied at 17 points apiece.

 

Pierz received the ball first in overtime, scoring on a 1-yard Robert Skiba rush to give the Pioneers a 24-17 lead. On the ensuing possession for Lourdes, it took just three plays for Zach Hillman to punch the ball in from two yards out, and give Lourdes the chance to tie the game with an extra point, or risk it all and go for the two-point conversion to win.

 

A true win or lose moment would come to fruition as head coach Mike Kesler decided to go for the two-point attempt, and the win.

 

The call was an option run up the middle. Running back Carter Greguson took the handoff up the middle only to be stuffed by the Pierz defense. It was at this point that the improbable took place. Greguson pitched the ball backwards to the very man who had just given him the ball, QB Noah Hillman.

 

Hillman, seemingly out of the play and left alone in the backfield, had a slight opening two and a half yards away from the end zone that he pushed through, into the end zone for the most important two points of his career.

 

 

The Eagles successful two-point conversion, though maybe not how it was drawn up, would be enough to defeat the Pioneers, 25-24 and advance to the state championship for the second time in three years, and third time in five.

 

The opponent would be a familiar one even though nearly 200 miles separated them. New London-Spicer would be that foe. A foe that had defeated Lourdes a season ago in the state semifinals. A foe who also defeated their previous opponent by one point. The same team that lost in the state championship game to St. Croix Lutheran last season.

 

Much like their meeting in 2013, the Eagles and Wildcats would alternate scores in the first two quarters and head to halftime with a seven point difference in points. Only difference in 2014 was that it was Lourdes who took a 21-14 lead as opposed to the Wildcats 20-13 advantage a season ago.

 

Unlike their game in 2013 however, the second half would be all Eagles, scoring once in each of the final two quarters, while holding New London-Spicer off the scoreboard completely. Greguson’s 10-yard touchdown run with 3:08 all but ended the game as it gave Lourdes a 35-14 advantage and would be the final points of the Minnesota Class AAA season.

 

The Eagles outlasted and exacted revenge against the Wildcats in 2014 to be crowned State Champions. The title is Lourdes third in school history and first since the 2010 squad finished the season 14-0.

 

Lourdes defeated New London-Spicer to become the 2014 Minnesota Class AAA State Champions (Photo from lhsfootball.com)

 

Despite the graduations of several players including running back Zach Hillman, the 2015 team will return quarterback Noah Hillman and running back/middle linebacker Greguson for what could be a return to the state championship this fall. After an undefeated season, exacting revenge on the team who knocked you out of the playoffs a season prior and defeating the defending champs, Lourdes will look to build on their successful 2014 campaign.

 

The 2014 Lourdes team completed one of the more impressive seasons across not only the state of Minnesota, but across the entire country as very few can say they accomplished the things the Eagles did.

 

Offensive stat leaders

Rushing: Zach Hillman (1193 yards)

Passing: Noah Hillman (904 yards)

Receiving: James Ustby (313 yards)

All-Purpose: Zach Hillman (1680 yards)

Touchdowns: Zach Hillman (18)

Rush attempts: Zach Hillman (154 carries)

Receptions: James Ustby (10 catches)

 

Defensive stat leaders

Interceptions: Nick Steinmetz (4)

Fumbles forced: Steven O’Brien (2)

Fumbles recovered: Zach Hillman (3)

 

Team statistics

Total scoring: 509 points

Opponent scoring: 167

Total offense: 4756 yards

Total rushing yards: 3827 yards

Total passing yards: 929 yards

Opponent offense: 3006 yards

Opponent rushing yards: 1816 yards

Opponent passing yards: 1190 yards

Third down conversions: 41.8% (51/122)

Opponent third down conversions: 33.7% (59/175)

Turnover differential: +13 (16 interceptions, 10 fumbles)