As might have been expected, an inexperienced Central football team has encountered a few bumps in the road this season.
The Raiders experienced the hardest jolt yet last Friday at Mayer Lutheran, where the Crusaders cruised to a 33-0 win on their homecoming night. Central now owns a 1-4 record for the season, while the Crusaders find themselves in a battle for second place in the Minnesota River Conference with a 3-1 league record.
“The stats were a little bit one-sided. We just struggled from the get-go to get anything going,” said Raiders head coach Paul Henn. “We gave up a couple of big first downs on early drives that allowed Mayer to get some momentum. Offensively, we just weren’t able to move the ball enough to get that momentum back.”
Central did struggle with the ball, collecting only 137 yards of total offense (all rushing yards) during the game compared to Mayer Lutheran’s 322 yards. The Raiders completed just one pass in nine attempts and had another picked off and returned 35 yards for a touchdown by Joel Burfeind.
In all, Central had just six first downs in the game, while the Crusaders tallied 16 first downs with a balanced offensive attack (nine catches on 20 pass attempts for 119 yards and 203 yards rushing).
“They looked very, very good. We’ve always traditionally had good games with Mayer. This is as good as I’ve seen them look in a few years now,” said Henn. “They came out and got after it.”
Mayer Lutheran started the scoring early with a five-yard touchdown run by Phil Burfeind and a 29-yard field goal kick by Chad Anenson in the first quarter.
They built on that lead in the second quarter on a two-yard scamper by Phil Burfeind, that 35-yard interception return by Joel Burfeind and a 20-yard field goal by Anenson.
The scoring was capped in the third quarter on another two-yard run by Phil Burfeind.
“I thought we played a little bit better on the defensive side of the ball in the second half. Part of that was that offensively we didn’t put them in quite as bad a spot as we had put them in the second half,” said Henn, noting that mistakes have continued to be an issue.
“The penalty thing just keeps coming up week after week it seems. We keep putting ourselves in bad spots on the offensive side of the ball, long situations where you become predictable with what you want to do. It’s just something that we have to keep working at, cutting those little mistakes out. They’ve plagued us all year and they’ll plague us the rest of the year if we don’t figure out some ways to cut back on penalties and turnovers.”
Despite the outcome, Henn said he was pleased with his team’s effort.
“Our kids competed. They could have folded it in and probably given up 50 points, but our kids kept competing and getting after it until the last whistle,” he said. “We’re going to be OK as long as we keep doing that. It’s just kind of the growing pains of a team without a lot of varsity experience that you have to go through. We’ll get through it and I hope to see the kids continue to improve. Regardless of what some of the scores have been this year, we can see the improvement, especially in some of our younger kids. We just hope we can start doing the little things that win football games more often as we finish up the year.”
Defensive leaders for the Raiders included Sam Newbloom (nine tackles) Alex Eichner (eight tackles, one pass deflection), and Mike Mullen (six tackles).
On the other side of the ball, Noah Peterson was an offensive leader with 15 carries for 79 yards, while Jeff Worm had 18 carries for 54 yards. Mullen also carried three times for eight yards.
Things won’t get any easier for the Raiders this week when they travel to Watertown-Mayer, which is 4-1 on the season and ranked No. 7 in Class 3A.
“We have some very good football teams in the MRC this year and you never really get any kind of break. So our kids are just going to have to forget about what happened last Friday and look ahead to Watertown,” said Henn. “We just have to keep plugging away and see what we can do.”