Magic slide past Storm

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SRR football finishes 6-2, will host first playoff game

By TOM FENTON| Staff writer

The collective mood of the Sauk Rapids-Rice football team after Wednesday night’s 12-6 loss to Monticello was palpable.
Though the Storm had chances in a game that meant nothing to section seedings, the frustration of not capitalizing on opportunities along with some undisciplined moments were obvious. Ornery is maybe the most accurate description as the Storm left a rain-soaked and wind-blown Monticello Stadium.

“We wanted this one bad,” said senior linebacker Jayce Walrath, who again was a nightmare for opposing blockers, finishing with 12 tackles and a sack. “We’re going to be sour, but we’re going to come out the next game and give it our all with our heads held high. This was a setback and we’re going to come back from it.”

The loss meant the Magic won the Blue Division sub-district title, which – in the big picture – means very little. SRR went into the game guaranteed to be seeded no lower than second in the upcoming Section 8AAAAA playoffs, but it was apparent the loss stung the team and coaches.

“We’re pretty frustrated,” head coach Phillip Klaphake said. “Scoring six points is bad. I feel terrible about it. Our kids played really hard and I’ve got to find a way to create some scenarios to allow them to be successful.”

The Storm (6-2), will host a semifinal game against the winner of the Bemidji versus Tech game Saturday, Oct. 30, at Sauk Rapids-Rice Middle School Stadium in Sauk Rapids. Moorhead (5-2), which defeated SRR 21-12 in Week 7, is the No. 1 seed despite losing 23-7 at Rogers Wednesday night.

For the second straight week, SRR gave up a long touchdown in the closing seconds of the first half. This one especially hurt as the Storm were clinging to a 6-0 lead and seemed poised to preserve it heading into halftime.

The Magic (5-3) had other ideas, reaching into their bag of tricks and perfectly executing a hook-and-ladder play that ended with speedy receiver Carson Kolles taking a pitch from Wyatt Sawatzke after he caught a Luke Emmerich pass in the middle of the field. The result was a momentum-changing 52-yard touchdown.
The light drizzle that fell in the first half turned into a steady rain after halftime, turning the contest into a battle of attrition. What it lacked in aesthetics as offensive playbooks became limited was more than made up for by both team’s intensity. Hard hits were plentiful, as was some uncharacteristic trash-talking.

“It’s a little bit harder to throw the ball in those conditions, and you know they’re going to struggle doing the same things,” Klaphake said. “You’re OK with it turning it into a punt-fest and trying to win the field position battle and trust your defense, but we’ve got to find ways to score points without a couple of guys.”

It was Monticello who made the big play of the second half when Emmerich connected on a swing pass with Kolles, who sprinted down the sideline for a 60-yard go-ahead touchdown with 10 minutes, 52 seconds remaining.

The Storm were on the verge of the game-tying score after three stout Alex Harren runs, but he was stopped on fourth-and-1 at the Monticello 8 yard line.

The Magic then took more than five minutes off the clock before SRR regained possession with 2:13 remaining. A 16-yard pass on fourth down from Jack Klein to Carter Loesch was negated by an ineligible lineman downfield penalty, helping seal Monticello’s victory.

Klein made his second career start in replacing Dom Mathies, who suffered a fractured ankle at Moorhead. He completed nine of 21 passes for 67 yards, including a strike to Bryce Lund for a 12-yard touchdown in the first quarter.

“The guys were all really supportive and said they had my back no matter what,” Klein said. “That’s what gave me confidence for this one. Coach Klaphake told me it’d be like any other football game and to go out there and play to the best of my ability. That’s how I looked at it.”

In addition to Mathies, the Storm were without defensive back/running back Andrew Harren, linebacker/tight end Cole Ackerman and defensive back/running back Austin Horn.

The first-round bye will help SRR get healthy, though an impatient Klaphake does not appear to be looking forward to waiting that long.

“I feel like I want to play right now,” Klaphake said. “But we earned the bye week, and we’re going to get our bodies healed. We’re excited about the opportunity to play in a section semifinal, and we’ve potentially got a lot of season left.”

SRR                  6   0   0   0-6
Monticello       0   6   0   6-12

First quarter: SRR – Bryce Lund 12 pass from Jack Klein (run failed). Second quarter: M – Carson Colles 52 pass from Luke Emmerich (pass failed). Fourth quarter: M – Kolles 60 pass from Emmerich (kick failed).
SRR rushing: Alex Harren 21-123, Carter Loesch 1-15, Klein 7-7, Jayce Walrath 2-2. SRR passing: Klein 9-21 67, Harren 1-1 7.SRR receiving: Walrath 2-26, Loesch 3-23, Harren 4-13, Lund 1-12. SRR tackles (solo-assists): Walrath 9-3 (1 sack), Travis Biery 3-6, Mason Rudolph 3-2, Brode Flakne 3-1, Keegan Patterson 3-0, Harren 2-2, Loesch 2-2, Will White 2-4, Jack O’Brien 1-1, Peyton Olson 1-1, Ethan Anderson 1-0, Graham Doherty 0-2, Cohen Mathies 0-1.

Sauk Rapids-Rice junior quarterback Jack Klein fires a pass toward the end zone as teammates Alex Harren (from left), Jayce Walrath and Noah Jensen provide blocking Oct. 20 in Monticello. The Storm finished the regular season Wednesday night against the Magic, which used a fourth-quarter touchdown to win, 12-6.