The domination of Maple Lake over Mayer Lutheran has ended. After three seasons of the Irish stomping the Crusaders out of the section tournament, Mayer Lutheran ended the Irish reign on Nov. 2 with a 23-13 win.
The victory sealed the Section 4AA title for the Crusaders and also earned the team an entry into the 2012 state tournament.
A strong defensive effort by both teams left the game scoreless after the first quarter. In the second, Mayer Lutheran collected 12 points in a hodgepodge of plays.
On the second play of the second quarter, junior Chad Anenson put the first points on the board with a 36-yard field goal. Minutes later, Maple Lake answered with a touchdown. Forcing a turnover nearly in the Mayer Lutheran end zone, the Crusaders picked up a safety after the snap to the Irish punter was tossed out of the end zone and recovered for an LHS safety. Senior quarterback Jeremiah Grimsley had a 30-yard touchdown run with three and a half minutes to play in the second quarter, to give LHS a 12-7 lead.
Maple Lake retaliated with a ten-yard pass on fourth down to lead 13-12 at halftime. The third quarter was a defensive battle that left both teams empty-handed in the end zone.
Eleven points in the fourth quarter earned the victory for the Crusaders. On a 20-yard pass from Grimsley, senior Tanner Luebke scored. Grimsley ran in the two-point conversion to give Mayer Lutheran its first lead since the first quarter (20-13). A final field goal, a 40-yarder, by Anenson with 1:18 to play game the Crusaders a ten-point lead that Maple Lake could not recover from.
Mayer Lutheran head coach Dean Aurich said both teams played a hard-fought ball game and should be proud of their work ethic.
“First half we were behind but in the fourth quarter our athletes really worked hard and came through for us,” he said. “We really had a bunch of tired hard work’n young men when the game was over.”
The Crusaders will face off against Section 3 champion Jackson County Central on Nov. 9. The game begins at 7 p.m. at Chaska High School. The Huskies are currently 9-2 and defeated Luverne for the section title.
Two other Minnesota River Conference teams qualified for the state tournament including Sibley East, a team that also competes in Class AA. Jordan also qualified in Class AAA.