Milaca’s football team lost to St. Cloud Cathedral 40-6 in the final regular-season game for both teams Wednesday, Oct. 16 at Claffy Field.
The Wolves weren’t too excited when they found out Cathedral would be their opening foe in the Section 5AAA Playoff a week later.
On second thought, though, Milaca didn’t mind getting another crack at the Crusaders.
The teams met again Tuesday, Oct. 22, at St. Cloud State University’s Husky Stadium.
And, things were a lot different as Milaca held a 12-8 lead until Cathedral scored in the fourth quarter and claimed a 15-12 victory.
“We knew that we didn’t play our best game in that first meeting,” said Milaca Coach Randy Johnson. “We felt we could do much better both offensively and defensively.”
Cathedral, seeded No. 3, got off to a fast start and scored early in the first quarter on a 28-yard pass from standout quarterback Jeff Fasching to Tommy Auger. A two-point conversion pass made it 8-0.
Some wondered if the Wolves were going to fold after that quick strike.
“We had talked before the game about how Cathedral could score quickly and that we couldn’t let that determine how we were going to play,” said Johnson. “On that scoring play the Cathedral player made a good catch under good coverage.
“I was very proud of how the team handled that first score and the way we bounced back.”
And, bounce back, the Wolves did.
Milaca held Cathedral scoreless for more than two quarters after that.
“We knew we had to take the quick alley pass away which was so successful in our earlier game with Cathedral,” said Johnson. “Coach Jeremy Mikla worked up some changes in the secondary and we made some changes in alignment at defensive end and linebacker.
“On offense the biggest change was our attitude at the line of scrimmage.”
Milaca, seeded No. 6, scored a pair of touchdowns in the second quarter to take a 12-8 halftime lead.
Senior back Jorgen Erickson scored the first touchdown on a three-yard run right away in the period and sophomore quarterback Nathan Hass pass passed 18-yards to senior back Ian Carpenter for the second score. The Wolves missed both conversions.
Milaca rushed for 154 yards in the first half.
Johnson credited linemen juniors Brad Bekius, Josh Otten and Zach Peterson and seniors Matt VanSomeren and Tristan Christy with opening paths for Wolves backs.
Neither team scored again until Fasching hooked up with Brady Yoerg on a 75-yard scoring pass with 9:18 left in the game.
“Cathedral played much stronger at the line of scrimmage in the second half and stopped plays we had been successful with in the first half,” said Johnson. “We thought our coverage was good on their scoring pass in the fourth quarter but, they made another big play like they’ve been doing all season.”
Johnson credited juniors Brad Bekius, Colton Sailor and seniors Matt Cluraghty and Trevor Seppala with putting pressure on Fasching throughout the game, with Seppala intercepting a pass.
Senior back Brian Kiel and Hass each rushed for 56 yards while Carpenter ran for 49 yards. Hass also passed for 69 yards, with one interception.
Fasching kept the Milaca secondary busy as he passed 34 times, completing 19 for 322 yards.
Milaca finished the season with a 2-7 record.
In other first round Section 5AAA games Oct. 22, No. 4-seeded Pierz topped No. 5-seeded Pine City 48-8 and No, 8-seeded Mora upset No. 2-seeded Aitkin 22-8.
In the semifinals Saturday, Pierz topped No. 1-seeded Foley 23-12 and Cathedral trimmed Mora 53-14.
Cathedral and Pierz meet for section title and a state berth Friday at 5:45 p.m. at Husky Stadium. Both teams are 6-4.