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)

Wildcats finish perfect season with first State Championship

 
Cameron Mellor (@CamMellor)
January 22, 2015

 

Capturing a State Championship requires a lot of differing factors. From the coaches to the players to the community and all in between, a State Title requires skill, talent, dedication, a little luck and a lot of hard work.

 

For the Wilmington Wildcats, securing the school’s first ever State Championship in 2014 will go down in history as a run for the ages, for all involved.

 

From start to finish, the 2014 campaign was filled with exciting plays, dramatic runs and improbable finishes en route to the Wildcats first title.

 

Take game one for instance. Against Sandwich High School, despite leading 19-7, Wilmington found themselves on the verge of losing the lead at halftime when the Indians rattled off 10 straight points. With a 19-17 advantage at halftime, the Wildcats stormed back behind the legs of quarterback Mason Southall to 20 unanswered points and the 39-17 victory.

 

In game two, despite surrendering the first points to Coal City, Southall and running back Nick McWilliams tore through the Coalers defense for 322 total yards and a 26-7 victory. In game three, more of the same as Wilmington found themselves yielding the first points to Lisle Senior. Down 3-0, the Wildcats used momentum from a 20-point third quarter to defeat the Lions, 34-3.

 

After defeating Reed-Custer, 34-7, the Wildcats put forth arguably their best offensive game against Westmont in week five. Despite once again surrendering the first points, Wilmington rattled off 21 points in the first quarter and 28 unanswered points before taking a 35-13 halftime lead.

 

Continuing to find their stride against the Sentinels, the Wildcats totaled 529 yards on offense, despite completing just one pass – a 4-yard Southall-Joe Mann touchdown. Nick Hawkins ran for 193 yards while McWilliams tallied 127 and Gavin Hawks accrued 119 in the 54-20 victory.

 

Just a week after running away with the game against Westmont, Wilmington found themselves searching for answers on the offensive side against Herscher. Up only 21-12 at halftime against the Tigers, neither team could muster much on offense until Austin Berns scored from five yards out for Herscher.

 

After allowing the opponents to pull within three points and not being able to move the ball on offense, Wilmington’s Mann intercepted a Brendan Powell pass with just 1:35 left in the game to secure the triumph, 21-18.

 

Few may know or even assume, that heading in to the fourth quarter of their next game against Seneca, the Wildcats were up on the Fighting Irish by merely seven points, 27-20. However, after scoring 13 unanswered and subsequently shutting out Seneca’s offense, the final score of 40-20 would be more indicative of just how the game played out. Wilmington outgained Seneca 407-182 as Southall tossed three touchdowns and McWilliams gained 135 yards on the ground.

 

The Wildcats defeated Peotone, 43-14 a week later before wrapping their regular season up with a 21-7 victory over Manteno despite a lackluster performance through the air. In their victory over the Panthers, Wilmington finished the game with negative yards through the air. Where their passing game struggled, their rushing game more than made up for it however.

 

McWilliams and Hawkins both carried the ball over 20 times for 145 and 127 yards, respectively. The Wildcats tallied 280 rushing yards as a team against a previously undefeated Manteno.

 

 

After finishing the regular season at 10-0, Wilmington squared off against an overmatched Paxton-Buckley-Loda team, winning 49-7 after holding the Panthers to just 37 total yards of offense. Five different Wildcats would score rushing touchdowns in the game as Wilmington would advance to play Monticello in round two of the IHSA 3A Playoffs.

 

For many teams, not gaining positive yards through the air would spell disaster. For the Wildcats however, it was just par for the course, as every yard gained was on the ground against Monticello. The Owls were outgained on the ground by a margin of 336 yards to just two of their own.

 

Monticello was outdone by four turnovers as Wilmington would win 40-0 to advance to the quarterfinals and a game against St. Joseph-Ogden.

 

In their closest game of the season, the Wildcats played a very evenly match St. Joseph-Ogden team – poised to ruin the perfect season for Wilmington. The Spartans would score first before the Wildcats would answer before halftime, tying the game at 7-7 at the break.
 

Another St. Joseph-Ogden score would be answered by Wilmington, however, each team would miss the ensuing point after touchdown attempts. Tied at 13 points apiece, Hawks would break the game open with his 60-yard touchdown run in the opening stages of the fourth quarter and a 20-13 lead for the Wildcats.

 

The Spartans, however, would answer with a long touchdown drive. Conversely, the point after attempt would again be missed by St. Joseph-Ogden who couldn’t muster any more points and fell to the Wildcats by a final score of 20-19.

 

Wilmington cruised past Byron in the state semifinals, scoring more points in each consecutive quarter in a 46-13 rout over the Tigers.

 

 

 

The State Chapmionship game would again prove to be an absolutely thrilling contest as the Wildcats would play fellow undefeated Williamsville. After seemingly feeling each other out through three quarters, Wilmington took a 10-3 lead into the fourth.

 

Each time the Bullets would tie the score in the final quarter, the Wildcats would answer. Each time, including the last points of the game – a 31-yard field goal by Jordan Sarr as time expired – came after a Williamsville TD.

 

Sarr’s second field goal of the game came as the final seconds ticked off the clock after Wilmington had driven down the field in 11 plays that took 5:15 off the game clock. Sarr’s memorable field goal came off of his foot perfectly, winning the game for Wilmington 20-17, pleasing the Wildcat fans in attendance and much to the chagrin of the Williamsville faithful.

 

A perfect season culminated with a perfect, storybook ending for Wilmington in 2014 as they brought home the school’s first ever State Championship.

 

 

 

Southall finished his senior season completing 59-of-108 passing attempts for 1090 yards and 12 touchdowns. He ran for six additional touchdowns and another 274 yards.

 

McWilliams and Hawkins each ran for over 1000 yards in 2014 as McWilliams led the team in carries (209), yards (1468) and touchdowns (24). Hawkins would finish second in each category with 193 carries for 1188 yards and 13 touchdowns.

 

With Hawkins returning to guide the Wildcats offense, the 3A State Championship will be theirs to defend for the first time in school history. A challenge, greatly appreciated, and surely accepted by the Wildcats.

 

Offensive stat leaders

Rushing: Nick McWilliams (1468 yards)

Passing: Mason Southall (1090 yards)

Receiving: Al Zlomie (627 yards)

All-Purpose: Nick McWilliams (1489 yards)

Touchdowns: Nick McWilliams (25)

Rush attempts: Nick McWilliams (209 carries)

Receptions: Al Zlomie (31 catches)

 

Defensive stat leaders

Total tackles: Joe Mann (82)

Tackles for loss: Derek Kirchner (19)

Sacks: Derek Kirchner (7)

Pass breakups: Mason Southall (25)

Interceptions: Al Zlomie (4)

Interception return: Mason Southall (60 yards)

 

Team statistics

Total scoring: 487 points

Opponent scoring: 169

Total offense: 4847 yards

Total rushing yards: 3757 yards

Total passing yards: 1090 yards

Opponent offense: 2767 yards

Opponent rushing yards: 1722 yards

Opponent passing yards: 1045 yards

Third down conversions: 43.4% (63/145)

Opponent third down conversions: 35.1% (59/168)

Turnover Differential: +17 (19 INT, 13 FR)

Crowley's Byron Cooke selected as HSGC Player of the Week

 

By: Cameron Mellor
January 23, 2014

 

The final minutes of any sporting event can be an intense few moments, but the final seconds that lead to an overtime period on the high school hard court is something to behold.

 

That was evident this past Tuesday night in Texas when Crowley High School’s lead man – Byron Cooke – was leaned upon late in the fourth quarter and then again in overtime during a contest against Centennial High School. Cooke led the Eagles in points and assists, but it was two crucial steals in the extra frame that ultimately led to the 69-67 victory over the Spartans.

 

Cooke finished with 18 points, six rebounds, six steals and five assists en route to being named HSGC’s National Player of the Week.

 

“He is a captain and our leader on the floor,” Crowley head coach Alfred Jones said.

 

 

The first four quarters were nothing short of exciting as Centennial jumped out to an early lead in the first. Crowley inched closer in the second as the teams went to halftime with the Spartans leading, 28-25.

 

It was Centennial who looked poised to take the game over after the break as they outscored Crowley in the third giving them an 11-point lead at the end of three. The fourth quarter was all Crowley, as it was Cooke who led the Eagles on a tear, closing the final quarter on a 18-10 run, inching within three points with less than 10 seconds on the clock.

 

With the game on the line, it was Cooke with the ball in his hands.

 

“Byron hit a three-pointer with four seconds left to send the game into overtime,” Jones said. “Byron is our catalyst.”

 

After Byron’s game-tying three, the two teams headed into overtime tied at 60. It was Cooke again to lead for Crowley. He assisted on the first basket of OT by Wyatt Beene then sank a basket of his own, giving the Eagles a quick four-point lead.

 

As overtime progressed, Centennial closed the gap and secured possession down only two points, 69-67, with under a minute to play. Cooke stole the ensuing possession from the Spartans, but his efforts were squandered by a costly turnover at the other end of the court, breathing new life into the Centennial sails.

 

Alas, it was Cooke again to the rescue for Crowley as he again stole possession from the Spartans before running the clock out, locking up the victory.

 

“Byron plays 30 minutes a game, and leads us to victory,” Jones said.

 

 

Cooke and the Crowley Eagles will be back in action Friday night, January 24, 2014 against the Everman Bulldogs. Follow along with the action right here: http://www.hsgamecenter.com/basketball/male/game/2772334