What looked like a strong start for the Mayer Lutheran football team turned to heartbreak on Nov. 9 as the Crusaders fell 51-20 to Jackson County Central in the first round of the Class AA state tournament.
Roughly five minutes into the first quarter, the Crusaders put the first points on the board with a touchdown and a successful extra point attempt, holding onto their 7-0 lead throughout the quarter.
But four seconds into the second quarter, the Huskies took the lead with a touchdown and two-point conversion. Mayer Lutheran took the lead back four minutes later with a touchdown, but Jackson County Central would post two more touchdowns before the half was out. The Huskies led 23-13 at halftime.
In the first half, the Crusaders lost crucial players to injury. Sophomore Taylor Otterstatter went down in the first, while junior running back Joel Burfeind was injured in the second quarter. Neither player played the rest of the game. Junior Nathan Weber was also injured.
The Huskies kicked off to begin the second half, but after the ball bounced off a Crusader, Jackson County Central was able to recover its own kickoff. The Huskies turned it into a 31-yard touchdown pass to lead 30-13. Jackson County Central had a 44-13 lead before Mayer Lutheran could snag its third touchdown to close the gap. LHS trailed 44-20 at the end of three.
The Huskies took a 51-20 lead early in the fourth quarter that they would hold on to for the remainder of the game. The Crusaders attempted a field goal with 10 seconds remaining, but the kick was no good.
With a severe lack of starting running backs, the Crusaders were forced to a mostly passing game in the second half. Senior quarterback Jeremiah Grimsley was 10-21 on the evening, for 243 yards and two touchdowns. He also threw two interceptions. Senior Tanner Luebke (108) and junior Anthony Gruenhagen (100) both had four receptions for over 100 yards and a touchdown apiece. Sophomore Taylor Otterstatter had a 22-yard reception, while junior Cole Buttenhoff also had a reception, for 13 yards.
Rushing leaders included Joel Burfeind (57 yards, one touchdown), senior Phil Burfeind (33 yards), Grimsley (26), and junior Matt Huinker (25). The Crusaders scored three touchdowns on 290 offensive yards (243 passing, 147 rushing). On defense, tackle leaders included Grimsley (11), junior Mason Diedrick (10), Phil Burfeind (9), and Buttenhoff (9).
The Huskies advanced to the state semifinals and will face Moose Lake/Willow River on Nov. 15.
Look for a full season wrap up in the coming weeks.