They say third time’s the charm, but how about the fourth?
For the last three seasons, the Maple Lake Irish have stopped the Mayer Lutheran football team from advancing to the state tournament.
In 2011, a second round loss to the Irish knocked the Crusaders from the section tournament. In 2010, the two teams faced off in the section final, only to have the Irish win again and advance to the state tournament. The year before that, 2009, Maple Lake again took out the Crusaders in the second round.
Once again in 2012, the No. 1 seeded Crusaders will take on the No. 2 Irish in the Section 4AA section final this Friday night in St. Cloud.
In order to advance to the section final, the Crusaders first had to defeat No. 8 Brooklyn Center and No. 5 St. Agnes.
Defeating the No. 8 Centaurs in a 51-21 game on Oct. 23, Mayer Lutheran jumped up to an early 21-0 lead, with three touchdowns in the first quarter alone. Junior Mason Deadrick recovered a Centaur fumble and returned it 11 yards for the Crusaders first touchdown. Next, junior Joel Burfeind returned a punt 65-yards before senior quarterback Jeremiah Grimsley connected with junior receiver Anthony Gruenhagen on a 45-yard pass.
Brooklyn Center scored first in the second quarter, but the Crusaders continued to open their lead before halftime, first on an interception by senior Phil Burfeind, which he ran one-yard for the touchdown. Burfeind then had a six-yard run to put Mayer Lutheran ahead 35-8 at halftime.
A Crusader-dominant third quarter led to 16 points, the first set a 37-yard touchdown pass from Grimsley to senior Tanner Luebke. Junior Chad Anenson hit a solid 25-yard field goal before Burfeind had a 50-yard interception and return. The Centaurs scored at the end of the third and in the fourth, but it wasn’t enough to close the large 30-point gap left by Mayer Lutheran.
The Crusaders also handedly defeated No. 5 St. Agnes on Oct. 27 in a 45-6 game.
Similar to the Brooklyn Center game, Mayer Lutheran jumped out to an early 21-0 lead after the first quarter. In that quarter, Gruenhagen began the scoring by picking off an interception and returning it 20 yards for the touchdown. Phil Burfeind then had a three-yard run for a touchdown, and connected on a 46-yard pass from Grimsley for the 21-0 lead.
Ten additional points in the second quarter, a 32-yard field goal from Anenson and a three-yard run from Burfeind, put the Crusaders up 31-0 at halftime.
St. Agnes came back after the break with a touchdown of their own, but the Crusaders kept their lead wide open with a 25-yard touchdown pass from junior Cole Buttenhoff to Gruenhagen and a 15-yard touchdown run from Joel Burfeind.
At quarterback, Grimsley was 4-5 for 87 yards and one touchdown. Buttenhoff was 4-6 for 52 yards and one touchdown. Anenson was 6-6 in extra points attempts and 1-1 field goals.
The Burfeind brothers led the Mayer Lutheran rushing game. Phil Burfeind tallied 65 yards on 14 carries and two touchdown, while Joel Burfeind had 59 yards on 10 carries and one touchdown. Also rushing for LHS was Buttenhoff (15 yards), and Grimsley (2 yards).
Top receivers included Phil Burfeind (46 yards, one touchdown), Gruenhagen (three receptions, 45 yards, one touchdown), Buttenhoff (29 yards), Luebke (12), and Otterstatter (7).
On defense, Gruenhagen and Luebke each grabbed an interception. Three sacks on St. Agnes came from Gruenhagen (2) and junior Nathan Weber. Gruenhagen also had a fumble recovery.
Head coach Dean Aurich said the Crusaders had challenges to overcome in the St. Agnes game.
“Both games out kids played hard,” he said. “Hopefully we can get all players healthy and on the field for the Maple Lake game.”
Maple Lake is 7-3 this season, and defeated No. 7 Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted and No. 3 Kimball to land in the section final. The Crusaders are now 9-1 this season.