Fire advance to state title game
It’s a Wright County Conference face off for the Class AAAA football title this Friday, as WCC competitors Hutchinson and Holy Family will compete at the Metrodome to crown the best in Class 4A.
The Section 3 champion Fire defeated Section 7 champion Princeton in a 49-28 state semifinal on Nov. 16 to advance.
Holy Family scored with 7:50 remaining in the first quarter on a one-yard touchdown run by senior Connor Byrnes. Princeton answered with a 60-plus yard kickoff return, then continued its march down the field, going for the touchdown on fourth down and one yard. The kick failed, and the Fire led 7-6 after the first quarter.
The Fire exploded in the second quarter, posting 28 unanswered points. Sophomore Chazz Johnson rushed the first two touchdowns for 46 and five yards, respectively. Sophomore quarterback Hank Hopkins completed two additional touchdown passes, the first a nine-yarder to senior Derek Ogren. Hopkins’ second touchdown came with 31 seconds remaining in the half. He connected with senior Rollie Lacy for an 18-yard touchdown pass. The Fire led 35-6 at halftime.
Princeton scored twice in the third quarter, closing the gap to 35-21 before Fire senior Conner Riddle rushed a three-yard touchdown. Johnson picked up a fumble later in the quarter and returned it 45-yards for another Holy Family touchdown.
Princeton trailed 49-21 to begin the fourth quarter and was able to score once more before the game was out. But the Tigers ran out of time, and the Fire advanced to the prep bowl on a 49-28 victory.
At quarterback, Hopkins completed six of eight passes for 78 yards and two touchdowns. Senior Ben Baker completed one of three passes for eight yards.
Ogren was the team’s leading receiver with two receptions for 34 yards and one touchdown. Lacy also had two receptions, for 26 yards and one touchdown. Johnson had two receptions for 11 yards, while junior Nick Hanscom also had a catch for 15 yards.
Johnson rushed over 200 yards on 18 carries for two touchdowns. Other leading rushers included Byrnes (47 yards on 13 carries, one touchdown), Baker (43 yards on eight carries), and Riddle (five yards, three carries, one touchdown).
The Fire scored seven touchdowns on 63 offensive plays for 397 yards.
On defense, tackle leaders included Ogren (8), senior Rob LaRose (4), Byrnes (3), and senior Stephen Kohler (2). Kohler sacked the Princeton quarterback for a loss of a yard, as did Ogren (loss of five). Byrnes forced a fumble, while senior A.J. Eskew and Johnson each recovered a fumble. Johnson returned his 45-yards for a touchdown. LaRose (2), Kohler, and sophomore Will Phillips all defended passes, while senior Ben VanDenBroeke blocked a Princeton punt.
The Fire will face the Hutchinson Tigers this Friday, Nov. 23, at the Metrodome beginning at 4 p.m. This will be the Fire’s second appearance in a prep bowl. They were the Class AAA runner-up in 2010, losing to Rochester Lourdes 41-13. Hutchinson has three state titles to its name – 1998,1984, and 1983. The Tigers were runners-up in 2003.