MARSHALL - All season long, the Tracy-Milroy-Balaton football team has talked about being Section 3A football champions.
After a dominating fourth-quarter performance in the section finals Friday afternoon, that goal became a reality.
"That's been our goal all year, to be the section champs," said Jason Kainz, TMB offensive coordinator. "It's something we say in practice almost every day. It's a little chant we do, so it's been in their minds."
Photo by Jenny Kirk
The players of No. 3 seed Tracy-Milroy-Balaton celebrate with the Class A Football Section 3 Tournament championship trophy after upsetting No. 1 seed Adrian 35-14 on Friday at The Schwan Regional Event Center in Marshall.
Photo by Jenny Kirk
Tracy-Milroy-Balaton’s Zach Seaton runs with the ball after making a catch during the Class A Football Section 3 Tournament championship Friday at The Schwan Regional Event Center in Marshall.
The third-seeded Panthers helped themselves to more than 500 yards of offense en route to a 35-14 victory over the top-seeded Adrian Dragons at The Schwan Regional Event Center on the campus of Southwest Minnesota State University, giving the team its first state tournament berth in nearly three decades.
"It feels amazing," Kainz said. "It's what you play football for, to go to the state tournament. I'm happy for everybody - for the community because it's been 29 years since we've been to the state tournament and for these kids especially, because they put in a lot of hard work."
After consecutive defensive stops in the opening quarter of competition, both teams put up six points in the second quarter. TMB took over on its own 23-yard line with 11 minutes, 37 seconds remaining and capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown on a quarterback keeper executed by Brett Swenhaugen at the 5:01 mark.
Adrian collected its first touchdown with 1:36 left to play in the second quarter when Logan Rogers hit Jacob Bullerman-Diekmann from 55 yards out. The Dragons would only complete one more reception in the matchup, compiling 65 total passing yards as a team, while the Panthers closed out the game with 293 yards in the air.
"It feels amazing to be able to put up 35 points," Kainz said. "The last touchdown, we just ran the ball right at them. I thought we were going to be able to do that when we first started the game, but we ended up having to throw the ball to have some success."
TMB took a 12-6 lead in the third quarter when Swenhaugen found Eric Donner from 16 yards out. The rest of the quarter, the team was able to keep the Dragons out of the end zone.
"We had a good defensive plan," TMB co-head coach Randy McIntire said. "(Co-head coach Derek) Flann put together a great defensive plan for us. They executed well, except for a couple of plays. We held them solid, pretty much the whole game. It feels awesome (to advance to state). I've been waiting for this a long time. I've been in the section finals about six or seven times, but this is the first time we've gotten all the way through."
Along with a stout defensive effort, TMB also stepped up its offense, turning past shortcomings into ammunition in the game.
"We threw the ball underneath really well," McIntire said. "We didn't last game. We saw the film from last game and we thought we could throw it underneath a lot, so we just picked on them and finally, we broke a couple."
The Panthers were defeated by Adrian during Week 2 competition, by a score of 27-13. Since that time, TMB has had five players return to the lineup to help the team reach the next level.
"We had more guys back than the last time we played them, so that helped a lot," McIntire said. "Getting Josh Kirk back this game helped a lot, too."
Kirk sparked the Panther offense with a 40-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter, giving the team a 20-6 advantage. Kirk finished the game with five catches for 100 yards.
"Our offensive line took control of the game at that point," Kainz said. "They were sending everybody. And we have a sophomore quarterback who takes control of the game a little bit himself, and then having Josh Kirk coming back this game really helped. He's been sitting out for three or four weeks with a shoulder injury. He had a big catch and a touchdown in the end zone here."
With just over seven minutes remaining, Swenhaugen connected with Zach Seaton for a 61-yard touchdown strike to cushion TMB's lead. Seaton recorded 140 yards on six catches to lead the receiving corps.
Seaton said he credits his team's effort and the determination to never give up for the section victory.
"It feels awesome," Seaton said. "We just kept on going as hard as we could. I'm so proud of my teammates. We gave it all we got."
TMB put up one final score when Elijah Koenig ran for a 15 yard touchdown. Koenig finished the game with 93 yards on 15 carries, while Swenhaugen contributed 91 yards on 30 carries. The Panthers rushed for 210 yards, while holding the Dragons to 122 yards on the ground.
"I don't know anybody that didn't stand out (Friday)," McIntire said. "There were a lot of big plays by a lot of people."
The Panthers advance to the state competition, beginning with a matchup with Bethlehem Academy at 1 p.m. on Saturday (Nov. 9) at Rochester Community and Technical College.
"I was hoping we would get to state, and now, after two years here, I'm so excited," Seaton said. "We need to go down there and give it all we've got. We need to show them what we're made of."
At Southwest Minnesota
CLASS A SECTION 3 TOURNAMENT
TMB 35, ADRIAN 14
TMB 066 23-35
TMB - Brett Swenhaugen 1 run (Tanner Deming-Phelps kick failed), 5:01.
A - Jacob Bullerman-Diekmann 55 pass from Logan Rogers (kick failed), 1:23.
TMB - Eric Donner 16 pass from Swenhaugen (Elijah Koenig run failed), 5:59.
TMB - Josh Kirk 40 pass from Swenhaugen (Swenhaugen run good).
A - Jordan Dingmann 1 run (Rogers run good), 7:07.
TMB - Zach Seaton 61 pass from Swenhaugen (Koenig pass from Swenhaugen good), 6:49.
TMB - Koenig 15 run (Deming-Phelps kick good), 2:02.
Rushing - TMB-Koenig 15-93, Swenhaugen 30-91.
Passing (att-comp-yards) - TMB-Swenhaugen 16-24-293; A-Rogers 2-10-65.
Receiving - TMB-Seaton 6-140, Kirk 5-100; A-Bullerman-Diekmann 1-55.
Tackles (solo-assists) - Swenhaugen 4-3, Spencer Smith 2-6, Austin Gleis 2-4, Rickie Jorgenson 2-2, Nick Schons 2-2, Gavin VanMoer 2-1, Tristan Varpness 0-5, Kenny Her 0-5, Riley Kirk 1-1, Joey Felt 1-1, Jacob Bengtson 1-1, Jordan Towne 0-3, Brady Lanoue 0-3, Elijah Koenig 0-3.
Sacks - TMB-Her 1, Smith 1.
Interceptions - TMB-Lanoue 1.
Fumble Recoveries - TMB-Jake Kern, Seaton, Smith.