STATE FOOTBALL: Vikings hold off Mahnomen in Class A quarterfinals, 34-22
ALEXANDRIA — Throughout their season, Minneota head coach Chad Johnston and his team have played by the philosophy of “bend, don’t break.” On Saturday afternoon in Alexandria, the Vikings employed this phrase to the fullest extent of its definition in their 34-22 win over the Mahnomen Indians in the Class A quarterfinals.
Johnston credited his players’ resiliency throughout their game and ability to not waver when things weren’t going their way.
“Mahnomen did a nice job kind of taking us out of our game plan,” Johnston said. “Our offense coordinator was a little frustrated because what he had originally planned, we kind of had to get away from. You know, credit to the kids, they stuck with it and stayed with what we needed to do.”
The Vikings got the ball to start, and quickly worked their way down the field. Despite Minneota’s early success on the drive, Mahnomen’s defense proved early on that they weren’t going to give the Vikings an easy game.
Minneota couldn’t capitalize on the opportunity, but was able to force Mahnomen to give the ball back to the Vikings after a brief stint on offense for the Indians.
But on the ensuing punt, the Vikings returned it to near midfield, but Mahnomen’s defense forced a fumble and recovered to give the ball quickly back to the Indians.
The Vikings defense briefly halted the Indians, but a long pass connected to put Mahnomen deep in Minneota territory, and the Mahnomen’s Jon Starkey ran it in for a one-yard touchdown. The Indians then got a two-point conversion to go, making it 8-0 after one quarter of play.
Whatever scoring didn’t happen for Minneota in the first quarter was compensated for in the second quarter thanks to three touchdowns from Isaac Hennen and one from Thomas Hennen. Shortly after the Vikings started their possession at the 39-yard line, Alex Pohlen looked to pass but ran the ball for a short gain after good defensive coverage from the Indians left no options. The ball would eventually find the gloves of Isaac Hennen, who picked up a few yards before earning a touchdown on a 14-yard run. After the failed two-point conversion, Minneota found itself trailing by two at 8-6 early in the second.
Minneota got a break on its next defensive possession, as it was Mahnomen who couldn’t hold onto the ball. The Vikings would recover the loose ball at the 32-yard line and capitalize on the mistake, as Isaac Hennen ran into the end zone again on a three-yard touchdown and giving Minneota its first lead of the day. The Vikings couldn’t get another two-point conversion to go their way, keeping the score at 12-8.
The Indians wouldn’t go away, though, as a personal foul on the Vikings defense moved Mahnomen downfield. Mahnomen wasn’t utilizing any long passes this time, but were instead making slow progress and pushing its way down the middle of the field through Minneota’s defense. When the Indians did decide to pass again, Vikings defender Landon Abraham covered it well and knocked it away. This coverage bent when a Mahnomen’s Chris Busche broke away, slipping through defenders to complete a 22-yard touchdown run. The two-point conversion was no good, making it 14-12 in favor of Mahnomen.
Despite the Indians’ touchdown, Minneota remained strong; Pohlen saw Thomas Hennen in the end zone and launched a deep 65-yard pass that connected to give the Vikings the lead back at 20-14 after the two-point conversion. Minneota then would add a third rushing score from Isaac Hennen off of an eight-yard run, moving the score to 26-14 at halftime.
Johnston added how Isaac Hennen is one of the major components for his team in winning the game. “We have a kid like (Isaac) Hennen where if we need to ride it we can, but hopefully we get back to dispersing the ball a little bit more so that we can take some of that weight off of him,” he said.
Johnston also mentioned that when Minneota needs the yardage, they can rely on giving the ball to Isaac and turn him loose. “That’s the way he’s been at this time of the year. It’s been that when we need to go to him to pass or to take some time off the clock or wear it down, he’s the guy that we definitely have the ability to go to.”
The third quarter started with Mahnomen being set back to the 48-yard line off of a holding penalty. This provided momentum for Vikings defenders such as Ethan Krier and Shawn Buysse to help hold off rush attempts made by the Indians. The defensive effort continued to stay strong for Minneota, forcing Mahnomen to punt.
Minneota then got another big play from Isaac Hennen, who caught a short pass by Pohlen and ran it down the sideline before being pushed out of bounds by a defender. Cole Sanow managed to pick up a gain of eight yards soon after, but the Vikings struggled to cover any more ground which resulted in a turnover on downs.
Krier made a key tackle on defense for the Vikings to help set Mahnomen back early in its possession. When the Indians were able to make it to the red zone, a host of Minneota defenders led by Buysse shut down a quarterback rush attempt. Despite this success from the Minneota pass rushers, Mahnomen on another Busche run to cut it to 26-22, a margin that would stay at the end of the third quarter.
Krier acknowledged the success he saw personally as well as the success that some of his teammates contributed.
“Personally, I feel like it was a good game,” he said. “I could’ve done better, but there’s always room for improvement. Shawn Buysse always has a lot of tackles for us, and Cole Sanow always runs hard. I think the other team is a good team for their size; they really fought hard.”
Minneota got a taste of the red zone early on in the fourth quarter, but an incomplete pass kept the Vikings from earning any points off of it. The Vikings wouldn’t be denied, however, as Isaac Hennen ran 13 yards and saw yet another touchdown, his fourth of the day. He tacked on another two points deriving from a successful conversion attempt, extending Minneota’s lead to 34-22.
The Vikings defense didn’t break the rest of the way and kept Mahnomen from seeing any success in moving downfield. Minneota then would take over at midfield before Pohlen would get into victory formation to seal it.
Pohlen led the way for the Vikings with 171 passing yards on nine complete passes. Isaac Hennen finished with 158 yards and four touchdowns while Sanow earned 30 yards on seven attempts. On the receiving side, Thomas Hennen racked up 130 yards from four receptions, with one of them resulting in a touchdown. Isaac Hennen saw 21 yards from three receptions, while Skylar Gilbertson gained 20 yards from one reception.
Krier said that even though the Vikings had good game, they could have put forth a stronger effort on both sides of the ball.
“I think if we put to use what we did in practice and played a little smarter, it could have been over earlier,” he said. “Our offense wasn’t as good as it has been. The offensive line struggled to get blocks, but Isaac ran the ball and we just made it work.”
Buysse showed up in a big way for the Vikings defense and earned two solo tackles and 29 assisted tackles. Sanow earned four solo and six assisted tackles, while Landon Abraham and Krier each saw two solo and nine assisted tackles.
Johnston said their defense did a nice job of staying disciplined and making the necessary plays.
“It’s hard to duplicate that in practice,” Johnston said. “They’re methodical on offense and took time off the clock which kept us off offense. But again, they are well rehearsed at what they do; I told our kids that if we aren’t disciplined on defense we are going to give up things, and we did, but that’s credit to Mahnomen’s well coached team.”
Minneota will advance to the semifinal round at 11:30 a.m. in U.S. Bank Stadium this Saturday where they will be playing against Mayer Lutheran.
Minneota 34, Mahnomen 22
Mahnomen 8 6 8 0 – 22
Minneota 0 26 0 8 – 34
Mahnomen: Starkey 1 yd run (2-pt. conversion run by Bendickson good).
Minneota: I. Hennen 14 yd run (2-pt. conversion failed).
Minneota: I. Hennen 3 yd run (2-pt. conversion failed).
Mahnomen: Busche 22 yd (2-pt. conversion failed).
Minneota: T. Hennen 65 yd pass from Pohlen (I. Hennen 2-pt. conversion run good).
Minneota: I. Hennen 8 yd run (2-pt. conversion failed).
Mahnomen: Busche 7 yd run (2-pt. conversion run by Busche good).
Minneota: I. Hennen 13 yd run (I. Hennen 2-pt. conversion run good).
Passing (comp-att-yds-td-int): Minneota (Pohlen 9-12-171-1-0).
Rushing (att-yds-td): Minneota (I. Hennen 20-158-4; C. Sanow 7-30-0).
Receiving (rec-tds-td): Minneota (T. Hennen 4-130-1; I. Hennen 3-21-0).