For the second time in as many weeks, the Central football team went against one of the MRC’s best teams and came away with a relatively close loss.
The Raiders hosted Sibley East for their homecoming game last Friday and, after taking an early lead, eventually succumbed to one of the league’s best offensive teams 29-19. Sibley East is now ranked No. 8 in Class 2A.
With that loss, the Raiders fell to 1-6 on the season, 1-5 in the Minnesota River Conference. Central is tied with Jordan for last place in the league, while Sibley East (5-1) is tied with Watertown-Mayer and Mayer Lutheran for the top spot.
While the outcome of Friday’s game was predictable on paper, the two teams appeared to be evenly matched, for the most part, on the actual playing field. The Raiders received the opening kickoff and moved efficiently down the field, capping their drive with a six-yard touchdown run by Noah Peterson (a point-after kick failed) to take a 6-0 lead.
It didn’t take the Wolverines long to respond. On their first offensive play the Sibley East running back went almost untouched on an 83-yard sprint to the end zone and the point after kick gave Sibley East a 7-6 advantage.
Central regained the lead before the end of the first quarter when quarterback Isaac Hormann, who spent much of the night rolling out of the pocket and throwing on the run, hit receiver Casey Clemensen for a 14-yard catch. After a two-point attempt failed, the Raiders held a 12-7 lead.
Sibley East struck twice in the second quarter on a nine-yard pass and a nine-yard run to move ahead 22-12, but the Raiders managed one more touchdown on a six-yard pass to Peterson, and the halftime score was 22-19.
As has been the case all season, however, the Central offense disappeared in the second half, and Sibley East scored one more touchdown on a two-yard run in the third quarter to seal the win.
“I thought this was the second week in a row where we played really, really well,” said Raiders head coach Paul Henn. “The kids played hard and they executed the game plan that we put together. It was just a good, hard-fought game and we just came up short.”
Central’s passing game was a highlight of the night, with Hormann going 12-16 through the air for a pair of touchdowns and 176 yards with no interceptions. Peterson had six catches for 74 yards, Clemensen added four catches for 52 yards and Tom Messner had two catches for 50 yards.
Sibley East threw the ball just six times, completing two passes for 34 yards.
“There were some different things we put in to try to attack some of the places we thought they were the weakest. Those things worked for us this week,” said Henn. “A lot of credit to the kids for making those adjustments. It was a little out of our comfort level for how we’ve played this year. It was nice to be able to kind of open things up a little bit and watch kids like Isaac have some success.”
On the ground, the Wolverines gained 352 yards to Central’s 110, and the total yardage for the evening was solidly in Sibley East’s favor, 386 yards to Central’s 286.
Top rushers for Central included Peterson, who had 58 yards on 11 carries, and Jeff Worm, who gained 31 yards on nine carries. Mike Mullen also ran eight times for 25 yards.
Henn was concerned about Central’s lack of punch in the second half, pointing out that the team hasn’t scored a point in the second half of any game since the season opener against Howard Lake.
“We’ve got to try to figure out what it is, what that hurdle is to get points in the second half. We could be tired, it could be turnovers, but we’ve got to find a way to put some points on the board after halftime,” he said.
On defense, Mullen had a big game with 10 tackles, a pass deflection and a fumble recovery. Matt Ditsch had eight tackles, and Jordan Stevens had seven tackles with a fumble recovery. Trevor Groschen and Sam Newbloom each had six tackles.
Regular season finale
The Raiders finished up the regular season this past Wednesday, Oct. 17 with a home game against Belle Plaine. Playoff seedings were determined after that game, and more information will be available next week. The first round of playoffs is scheduled for next Tuesday night, Oct. 23.
Regarding Belle Plaine, which has struggled this season and is also 1-5 in the conference, Henn said the Raiders were going to have a tough challenge adjusting from Sibley East’s ground attack to Belle Plaine’s aerial tendencies with just two days of practice between the games.
“I like the way we’ve played the last two weeks, I really do, but you couldn’t go between two more different styles. Sibley East has two tight ends in a wishbone set and just runs, runs, runs. Belle Plaine is going to put out four quicks and they’re going to throw the ball all over. It’s really hard when you have to go from preparing to one extreme to the other in essentially two days. We’re going to have to get after it the next couple of days and go out and see what happens,” he said.
Henn anticipated that the Raiders would get No. 5 or No. 6 seed for the playoffs. With a No. 6 seed, the likely opponent on Tuesday would be Patrick Henry. A fifth seed would likely mean a match up with Breck or Rockford.
A win in the first round would mean another game on Saturday, Oct. 27.