Things could hardly have gone better for the Central football team in the first half at LeSueur-Henderson on Friday, Sept. 7 when the Raiders jumped out to a 26-7 lead.
Unfortunately for Raider fans, however, the second half couldn’t have been much worse, as the Giants stormed back, shut down the Central offense and pulled ahead to win 29-26.
The loss dropped the Raiders to an 0-2 record on the season, 0-1 in the Minnesota River Conference.
“We came out in the first half and really got after them pretty good and were able to do a lot of the things that we thought we were going to be able to do that night,” said Central head coach Paul Henn. “As we went through the course of the game we had some different kids get banged up and LeSueur got momentum and we just weren’t able to do anything to stop that in the second half.”
First, the good news. The Raiders blasted out of the gate with two first quarter touchdowns by sophomore running back Noah Peterson, who chugged into the end zone from one yard out to open the scoring, then caught a 49-yard pass from quarterback Isaac Hormann to give Central a 12-0 lead (a point-after kick failed after the first touchdown and a two-point running attempt was stuffed after the second touchdown).
Senior running back Jeff Worm added to Central’s tally with a two-yard touchdown run in the second quarter (kick failed) before the Giants finally responded with a 32-yard interception return and extra point to get on the board.
The Raiders weren’t done, however, as Peterson legged out a 69-yard touchdown before halftime to give the Raiders a commanding 26-7 lead after a two-point conversion pass from Hormann to tight end Luke Marschall.
After the break, however, the game took a turn that few could have foreseen given the one-sided first half. With 10 out of 11 Central starters playing on both sides of the ball, fatigue and a key injury to lineman Jordan Stevens opened the door for a LeSueur-Henderson comeback, and the Giants made the most of the opportunity.
The comeback started with a 62-yard rushing touchdown and extra point in the third quarter, gained steam with an eight-yard touchdown run and extra point kick in the fourth quarter and finished with a 19-yard rushing touchdown and two-point conversion run with about five minutes remaining in regulation.
LeSueur-Henderson preserved that three-point lead by recovering a Central fumble on the next possession and held on to hand the Raiders their second straight loss to open the season.
“LeSueur just got the ball rolling in their direction and we just really had no way to answer it,” said Henn. “When we have 10 of our 11 starters playing two ways, and that extra kid who wasn’t playing two ways had to play two ways because we get some injuries, we’re just going to run out of a little steam. Our kids have to work on finding a little extra and digging deep. I think they’re going to get it here eventually. We just have to get that first win out of the way.”
Despite the forgettable outcome, Henn said the first half showed the team’s potential and the second exposed the Raiders’ inexperience.
“I feel like there are a lot of positives we can take from the first half and a lot of learning we need to do from the second half,” he said. “We’re just such a young football team.”
One sign that the team is learning came in the reduced number of penalties, from nine in the first game to just three in the second. Henn said that was encouraging, but noted that the team struggled to take care of the ball, losing one fumble and three interceptions.
“There are things that we have to keep working on. They’re all little things, the little things that are the difference between winning and losing football games,” said Henn. “When our kids get those figured out I think we’re going to start putting together a few wins.”
Individually, Peterson had a huge game with 219 yards rushing on 30 carries and that 49 yard pass reception. Worm added 46 yards on 11 carries on the ground. Other receivers included Marschall with two catches for 25 yards and Casey Clemensen with two catches for 18 yards.
Overall, Hormann went 5-13 for 92 yards with three interceptions and one touchdown in his second game as a starter.
Defensively, Clemensen picked off his third interception of the year and had five tackles. Linebacker Mike Mullen and linemen Matt Ditsch and Sam Newbloom all led the team with seven tackles apiece.
This week the Raiders are on the road again at Tri-City United (2-0), which beat Belle Plaine 14-6 last week and could be one of the conference favorites this year.
“We’ve watched them on tape and we think if we can play as well as we did in that first half we’ll do alright,” said Henn. “Our guys just have to learn to play a good, solid four quarters of football. We’ve had two good halves and two bad halves. We just have to be able to put together full football games and we’ll be able to start winning games instead of losing close ones.”