STATE FOOTBALL: Rabbits reach state title game with tight victory over Ada-Borup/Norman County West
MINNEAPOLIS – It wasn’t always pretty for the Wabasso Rabbits, however the only thing that matters is coming out with a victory. That’s what the Rabbits did on Saturday in the state semifinals in a battle of two undefeated teams. The Rabbits grinded out a 21-13 victory over Ada-Borup/Norman County West to punch their ticket to the 1A state title game.
The Rabbits opened the game with the ball and went three and out, something the Rabbits rarely do. Wabasso coach Joe Kemp said that the Cougars were the best defense they faced all year.
“They did some things to take away some of the things we like to do,” Kemp said. “They forced us to do some different things than we are accustomed to. We threw the ball a bit more than we have in the season. I think we wore them down in the fourth quarter. We weren’t able to run off tackle like we normally do.”
Scott Zollner and Myles Zeug combined for a sack on third down to force the Cougars to punt on their opening possession.
A Wabasso fumble set the Cougars up near midfield with 5:07 remaining in the first quarter. On the very next play Tony Franta came up with an interception to set the Rabbits up at their own 43-yard line. Wabasso nearly coughed it up again on the next play when they mishandled the snap.
On a third and on Cooper Taylor showed off his speed when he took it to the house on a screen play to give the Rabbits a 7-0 lead with 3:34 remaining in the first quarter.
“It gave a lot of momentum to our team,” Taylor said. “Our fans always tell us that they are worried up until we get that first touchdown. If we get the first touchdown they are fine. It brings a lot of momentum to our team.”
The Cougars closed out the scoring in the first quarter by getting a field goal to make it a 7-3 game.
Nick Altermatt came up with Wabasso’s second interception of the first half to set the Rabbits up with good field possession at the 21-yard line.
It appeared that Franta was about to go in for a touchdown when the Cougars cornerback stripped him off the ball at the two-yard line and returned it back to the 23-yard line.
The Cougars started the second half with the ball and trailing 7-3. The Cougars opted to go for it on fourth and one near midfield and the Rabbits stuffed them to take over on downs.
With the Rabbits facing a fourth and six at the 39-yard line it was the Cougars coming up with a big fourth down stop to take over on downs.
Following the defensive stop the Cougars methodically moved the ball down the field into Wabasso territory. Colton Taylor broke up what would have been a touchdown on third down to force the Cougars to kick a field goal.
At the end of the third quarter Wabasso held a slim 7-6 lead. The Cougars started the fourth quarter with the ball inside Wabasso’s 20-yard line.
For the first time in the game Ada-Borup/Norman County West’s kicker missed a field goal, but the Rabbits were called for running into the kicker to give him another swing at it. The second time was not the charm, as he missed it wide left.
Following the miss the Rabbits took over at the 20-yard line and marched down the field. With the Rabbits facing a fourth and four Kemp dialed up a reverse. Colton Taylor took the ball from his twin brother, Cooper and scored to put the Rabbits up 14-6 with 5:58 remaining in the game.
“The team was gearing up to stop Cooper,” Kemp said. “They were sending a lot of guys at the point of attack. Once they started flowing we knew we could get backside. It was time to take a chance.”
The Cougars weren’t the only ones surprised by the playcall.
“It kind of surprised me,” Colton Taylor said. “I normally don’t get the ball that much.”
Cooper Taylor came up with Wabasso’s third interception of the game to set the Rabbits up at their own eight-yard line with 4:39 left in the game. It was one of many big plays that the Taylor twins made throughout the game.
“They play the game fast,” Kemp said. “They get after people. They’ve been a big part of our game plan, not just today, but over the year. I’ve grown to expect them to have games like this.”
Cooper Taylor scored his second touchdown of the game with 1:52 remaining to put the Rabbits up 21-6.
The Cougars scored a touchdown to make it a 21-13 game with 42 seconds remaining. The Rabbits recovered the onside kick to seal the victory.
“We have another week of work to do,” Kemp said. “The senior leadership that this group provides has been nothing but business. We get to film. We get to practice. We get to the weight room. There is no screwing around. It’s always been about lets play another week. We got something we want to do.”
The Rabbits will square off with a familiar foe in the state title game. Wabasso will play Minneota on Saturday at 10 a.m. The Rabbits are the only team that has defeated the Vikings in the last four years. Wabasso ended Minneota’s hopes of a three-peat last year when they defeated them in the section semifinals.
“I’m going to enjoy the moment,” Kemp said. “I’ve been with these guys for a long time. We are going to enjoy today. We will start getting after the film. Monday we will get more film and get the game plan in.”
Ada-Borup/Norman County West 13
Wabasso 7 0 0 14 – 21
Ada-Borup 3 0 3 7 – 13
Wabasso: Cooper Taylor 55 yd pass from Altermatt (Kick).
Ada-Borup: Alves 39 yd field goal.
Ada-Borup: Alves 37 yd field goal.
Wabasso: Colton Taylor 13 yd run (Kick).
Wabasso: Cooper Taylor 6 yd run (Kick).
Ada-Borup: Fetting 21 yd pass from Brainard (Kick).
Passing (comp-att-yds-td-int): Wabasso (Altermatt 7-15-98-1-0).
Rushing (att-yds-td): Wabasso (Cooper Taylor 23-128-1; Jacobson 7-61-0; Altermatt 12-29-0; Colton Taylor 2-20-1).
Receiving (rec-tds-td): Wabasso (Cooper Taylor 4-93-1).