Holy Family football earns state berth

Sophomore Chazz Johnson (29) and senior Ben VanDenBroeke (60) bring down the Holy Angels quarterback on Nov. 2.
Sophomore Chazz Johnson (29) and senior Ben VanDenBroeke (60) bring down the Holy Angels quarterback on Nov. 2.

The Holy Family football earned its third consecutive section title and state tournament invitation last week with a 42-35 win over Holy Angels.

After defeating No. 5 Richfield and upsetting No. 1 Minneapolis Washburn, the No. 4 Fire faced off against No. 2 Holy Angels on Nov. 2.

“It was a wild game,” said Holy Family assistant head coach and defensive coordinator Ian Parzyck. “They’re a really good team.”

The two teams traded touchdowns in the first quarter. Sophomore Chazz Johnson kicked off the scoring with a five-yard touchdown run. Holy Angels answered with a TD of its own. Senior Connor Byrnes completed a three-yard run for the Fire’s second touchdown. The Stars responded with a 60-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 14-14. In the second quarter, Byrnes rushed one-yard for a touchdown. Holy Angels also scored to leave the game at 21-21 at halftime.

Johnson picked up a Holy Angels fumble in the third quarter, returning it 71 yards for a Holy Family touchdown. The Fire led 28-21 after three. Adding another seven points to the scoreboard, Johnson had a seven-yard run in the fourth quarter. Holy Angels responded with two touchdowns to tie the game at 35-35.

But Holy Family wasn’t done. A 28-yard touchdown run by Johnson sealed the game, and the section title, for the Fire.

Against Holy Angels, the Fire preferred a rushing game, only throwing two passes. Baker was 1-1 for 11 yards, and senior Rob LaRose was 1-1 for nine yards. Sophomore Justin Dahl caught both passes. Johnson led the rushing effort for Holy Family with 153 yards on 24 carries for four touchdowns. Other rushing leaders included Byrnes (54 yards, one touchdown), senior Conner Riddle (67 yards), and Baker (43 yards). The Fire scored six touchdowns on 61 offensive plays for 337 yards.

The Fire were on fire on defense, with 4.5 sacks on the Holy Angels quarterback for a loss of 45 yards, credited to Byrnes (2), senior Derek Ogren (1.5), and senior Jimmy Curran (1). Curran also defended three passes. Johnson, Ogren, and senior Ben VanDenBroeke each recovered a fumble, and senior Charlie Marschall snagged one interception for a 40-yard return.

This is the Fire’s third trip to the state tournament in as many years. In 2011, Holy Family fell in the first round to state runner-up Fairmont. The year prior, the Fire were the state runner-up.

Holy Family will face Hill-Murray this Friday, Nov. 9 at Macalaster College in St. Paul. Game begins at 7 p.m. The winner will advance to play the victor of Detroit Lakes/Princeton on Nov. 16 at the Metrodome.

“We’re going to have to play a good game on Friday night,” Parzyck said. “Hill-Murray’s a good team.”

After beginning the season 2-3, the Fire were led to six consecutive wins by senior leaders with “quiet confidence,” according to Holy Family head coach Dave Hopkins.

“This is a time when most would break out their hunting gear and get ready for an off season in football and an early season in the woods,” Hopkins said. “Not our guys … they stayed in the fight.”