ONTO STATE FINALS
An April 19 birthday is not the only thing Owatonna senior quarterback Abe Havelka and Twins catcher Joe Mauer share after Havelka tossed seven touchdowns in Owatonna’s 56-28 victory over Brainerd (9-3) in the Class 5A State Semifinals at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis Saturday.
Havelka joined Mauer and became the ninth player in Minnesota high school football history to accomplish the feat.
“It’s pretty cool,” Havelka said. “But I’m just happy at the end of the day if our team gets that win.”
Havelka was one touchdown shy of tying the state record of eight, which Minneapolis Southwest’s Elliott Mathieu set in 2008.
Havelka was on fire from the start. He connected with senior receiver Dalton Kubista on a 52-yard touchdown just four plays into the game.
Havelka said he saw the mismatch between the 6-foot-5-inch Kubista and the 5-foot-10-inch defensive back right away.
“It got the team fired up and ready to go,” Kubista said. “It helped get the nerves out of the way.”
The Warriors’ defense stiffened and stopped the Huskies on their next three drives.
However, Owatonna would go on to score touchdowns on its next seven possessions.
“I think that we executed perfectly,” said Alex Raichle, senior receiver and defensive back. “We came in there with a game plan. We just have such a good receiving corps that it is tough to guard all of us, and our quarterback does a great job of getting us the ball.”
Shortly into the second quarter, Havelka again found Kubista streaking down the left sideline for 85-yard touchdown to put the Huskies up 14-0.
“That’s my specialty, running down the sideline and going to get jump balls,” Kubista said. “Coming in, I didn’t expect this many, but it was nice.”
Brainerd marched down the field on a 9-play 71-yard drive that was finish off with a 2-yard touchdown run on fourth down by senior running back Charlie Geraets. The Huskies maintained a 14-6 advantage after Raichle stormed around the edge and blocked the extra point.
Raichle caught a 25-yard touchdown pass from Havelka on Owatonna’s ensuing drive to give the Huskies a 21-6 lead with 3:01 remaining in the first half.
Owatonna’s defense continued to control the line scrimmage and forced Brainerd to go three-and-out on its next drive. The Huskies quickly moved the ball down the field and Havelka threw his fourth touchdown of the first half, a 12-yarder to senior receiver Noah Budach.
“I thought that was a big one,” Owatonna coach Jeff Williams said. “To go up three scores at halftime and score on a 50-yard drive in about a minute without using a timeout, that was big.”
Brainerd’s defense did a good job of bottling up Owatonna star running back Jason Williamson in the first half, but Williamson broke free on an inside carrier for a 52-yard touchdown on the Huskies’ first drive of the third quarter.
“If they want to take away the pass than [Williamson] is going to get the ball and he’s going to show them what he can do,” Havelka said.
The Warriors’ senior running back Max Zimmerman answered with a 2-yard touchdown run with 5:14 left in the third quarter and Brainerd narrowed Owatonna’s lead to 35-14 after converting the two-point conversion.
Kubista caught his third score of the night on the Huskies’ next drive.
“It’s tough to cover our wide receivers in space,” Havelka said. “They can make any catch on the field.”
Brainerd refused to go away and Geraets scored on a 40-yard run making the score 42-21 with 1:28 remaining in the third quarter.
Three plays later, Raichle caught a pass on a crossing route and outran the entire Warriors’ defense 64 yards to the end zone.
Brainerd’s junior running back Joe Kland ran for a 6-yard score to start the fourth quarter.
Raichle scored the final touchdown of the game when he caught a 35-yard reception with 8:14 left.
With the win Owatonna (11-1) advanced to play Elk River (11-1) at U.S. Bank Stadium in the Class 5A State Championship on Saturday at 4 p.m.
The Elks ended the Huskies season, 19-7, this past year in the state semifinals.
“We are going to have to get healthy,” Williams said. “We lost a couple of kids on defense tonight and Brainerd was able to exploited our perimeter a little bit.”
Williams said the Huskies also have to improve their hydration and nutrition heading in the state championship game.
“Our kids were pretty fatigued and gassed at the end,” he said. “Until you actually experience this environment, it’s really hard to prepare for. We don’t have a lot of two-way players and we were able to cycle some kids through, but I think we’re going to hit the Pedialyte, Gatorade and that stuff a little bit harder this week.”
Elk River’s offense is average 47 points a game, almost all by rushing.
The Elk have rushed for 5,661 yards and 66 touchdowns on 647 carries this season.
They are led by two 1,000 rushers in junior Adam Nelson and senior Sherrod Kpahn. Nelson has ran for 1,705 yards and 21 scores on 160 touches, while Kpahn has carried the ball 127 times for 1,025 yards and 12 touchdowns. Senior quarterback Mitchell Stroh has nearly eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark himself. He’s rushed 97 times for 979 yards and 15 touchdowns.
“We saw Elk River 365 days ago and they are a good football team,” Williams said. “It’s going to take every ounces of what we have defensively to stay in the football game with those guys.
Owatonna 7 21 21 7 — 56
Brainerd 0 6 15 7 — 28
O-Kubista 52 pass from Havelka (Nelson kick), 10:47
O-Kubista 85 pass from Havelka (Nelson kick), 10:42
B-Geraets 2 run (kick blocked), 6:15
O-Raichle 25 pass from Havelka (Nelson kick), 3:01
O-Budach 12 pass from Havelka (Nelson kick), 1:03
O-Williamson 52 run (Nelson kick), 7:55
B-Zimmerman 2 run (Stoiski pass), 5:14
O-Kubista 14 pass from Havelka (Nelson kick), 3:30
B-Geraets 40 run (Henke kick), 1:28
O-Raichle 64 pass from Havelka (Nelson kick), :43
B-Klang 6 run (Henke kick), 10:45
O-Raichle 35 pass from Havelka (Nelson kick), 8:14
First Downs 24 17
Rushes-yards 36-184 57-358
Passing 451 9
Punt Returns 4-20 0-0
Kickoff Returns 5-87 4-61
Interception Returns 0-0 0-0
Comp-Att-Int 21-25-0 3-14-0
Sacked-Yards Lost 1-5 1-3
Punts 1-25 7-266
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 0-0
Penalties-Yards 3-28 3-25
RUSHING—Owatonna, Williams 22-135, Havelka 8-31, Budach 1-19, Wiese 1-6, Walter 1-4. Brainerd, Geraets 39-314, Klang 8-50, Zimmerman 5-12, Stolski 4-4, McConville 1-0.
PASSING—Owatonna, Havelka 21-25-0-451. Brainerd, Stolski 3-14-0-9.
RECEIVING—Owatonna, Budach 7-63, Raichle 5-157, Kubista 4-192, Williamson 3-25, Malo 1-13, Wiese 1-1. Brainerd, Boran 2-5, Gervanek 1-4.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—None.