Milaca Football Coach Randy Johnson knows what his team has been greatly lacking through three losses so far this season, the latest a 41-17 setback at the hands of Little Falls in the Wolves’ home opener last Friday at Claffy Field.
“In practice we look good and we don’t make many mistakes,” said Johnson. “That has changed on game night.
“We do some good things, then have critical breakdowns.”
The Wolves have played respectable first halves in their losses, including the opening loss at Pierz and the loss at Foley Sept. 5. In all three games Milaca has had a chance to score in the first half and pick up some momentum, but, in each game a scoring drive has melted down inside their opponent’s 10-yard line.
“We get drives going but we can’t finish them,” said Johnson. “Many of our mistakes are mental ones by veteran players who shouldn’t be making them.”
Little Falls, which scored its first victory after opening losses to Waseca and Albany, used a crushing ground game to subdue the Wolves, just like it did at Little Falls last season.
The instigator, once again, was senior 225-pound back Jalen Wuchko, a bulldozer who can wear a team out by the start of the fourth quarter.
Wuchko, who had 331 yards against Milaca in 2013, piled up 235 yards on 31 carries this time and had a pair of 25-yard scoring runs.
“He’s a great back who can power his way through tackles,” said Johnson “It’s the third week in a row we’ve faced that kind of challenge.”
Milaca was without starting quarterback senior Brian Kiel (sore shoulder/neck) and back-up Mike Garber (broken finger).
That left the job up to sophomore Nathan Hass, who responded with a solid game, completing 19 of 34 passes for 231 yards without an interception. He connected with senior back Jorgen Erickson on a 67-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter and junior wide receiver Levi Hunt on a touchdown pass of one yard in the fourth quarter.
Hunt had three receptions for 44 yards and junior receiver Christian Kruse had two catches for 42 yards. Senior receiver Mason Hoskins had five catches for 24 yards, junior receiver Nic Wolbert had two for 28 and senior receiver Trevor Roelofs had five receptions for 20 yards.
Hass rushed nine times for 49 yards while senior Ian Carpenter carried 19 times for 40 yards.
“We continue to struggle with getting a consistent running game going,” said Johnson. “Mistakes have been a big reason for that.”
Little Falls had a 14-3 halftime lead and outscored Milaca 27-14 in the second half. Wolbert kicked a 34-yard field goal on the final play of the first half.
The Flyers had a 512-327 edge in total yardage.
“We were waiting for our team to break through with a game like this,” said Little Falls Coach Jay DeCann. “We avoided mistakes and played well on both sides of the ball. It was a nice win.”
Milaca hosts Albany (1-2) tonight (Friday) at 7 p.m. at Claffy Field. The Huskies lost their non-conference opener to Benilde-St. Margaret’s 47-8, then topped Little Falls 36-34 before losing to St. Cloud Cathedral 17-14 last Friday.
“Our play through the first three games has been hard to predict due to the fact that we have played a lot of kids, many who have been thrown into action for the first time,” said Albany Coach Mike Kleinschmidt. “With only 11 seniors, many underclassmen have gotten a taste of what varsity football is like.
“I like the fact that they have given us everything they’ve got, are resilient, well conditioned and disciplined, in good times and bad. We need to improve in the trenches on offense and defense.
“No individual standouts have emerged thus far and our stats reflect that.
“We expect a rugged game at Milaca. It always has some good, big linemen and exciting players at the skilled positions.”
Becker and Cathedral are 2-0 in GRC play and share the conference lead while Foley, Albany, Little Falls and Zimmerman are 1-1 and Mora and Milaca are 0-2.
The Wolves are at Mora Friday, Sept. 27.