With their second straight shutout, the Waconia Wildcats moved to 6-0 with a 16-0 home victory over the Chaska Hawks. Like on Friday night, the Wildcats have relied on an elite defense, great special teams and an offense the made just enough plays to get the victory. The Wildcats have only allowed an opponent to reach double digits on the scoreboard once this season.
Brenden Carlson and linebacker Cade Mueller started the game with a tackle for no gain. Carlson then clamped down from his defensive end position to make a tackle inside for short yardage. Then Carlson penetrated and forced a runner to the outside and into his help, allowing Mueller to clean up. Later in the game, Carlson made another tackle for loss.
Mueller got quick pressure on the quarterback to get a sack. He was in the backfield again and forced a fumble. Then the senior read an inside handoff, came down the line of scrimmage, making the tackle forcing a fourth down. He did it again on the same type of play, and again made a tackle for a short gain. Then he read a screen and tipped the pass. Defensive lineman Tyson Gothmann penetrated into the backfield and forced the quarterback out wide. Mueller took advantage and dropped the quarterback for a loss.
Linebacker Luke Marquardt made a tackle in space on the outside. Then he was able to come up with a fumble recovery off a bad snap. Twice, the junior scraped down the line from the outside to stop an inside run. Later, he filled a hole to stuff an off-tackle run. He also put pressure on the quarterback, once he didn’t get to the quarterback; the next time he came up with a sack.
Reis Henriksen had tight coverage on the outside at the corner position. Then he was locked up in one on one coverage on a deep route and was in better to position to make a play on the ball than the receiver and knocked the ball down.
Yet another defender’s hustle paid off for the Wildcats. Defensive lineman Alec Olson ran a play down from the backside for a sack. Late in the game, he put pressure on the quarterback – while drawing a flag for being held – and forced a bad throw. The Wildcats declined the penalty because Henriksen intercepted the pass.
Linebacker Eric Groeneveld quickly got into his pass drop and deflected a pass.
Off a Mueller and Groeneveld blitz, defensive lineman Parker Althaus recovered a fumble. The quarterback was forced into Carlson who forced the fumble.
Linebacker Nick Rogers, from the backside, ran down a play for a short gain. Then he put pressure on the quarterback forced him to roll out and throw a bad ball.
Rogers, Olson, and Marquardt met at the quarterback for a five-yard sack.
Mitchell Garnatz, Ethan Swanson, Tim Stapleton, and Henriksen were a solid back end all game. At least once they had such good downfield coverage, they allowed a textbook coverage sack.
On a swing pass into the flat, Swanson and Garnatz combined for a tackle in the open field.
Later, Garnatz undercut a crossing route and almost made an interception.
Rotating in at defensive tackle, Bennett Weber – despite a double-team – knocked down a pass.
“Our defense really stepped up. Our front seven kept the inside game contained,” Swanson said. “It was up to the rest of us to stop the outside game.”
For three quarters, Stapleton was the only player to put any points on the board. He connected on three of four field goal attempts. He knocked through a 21-yard field goal, and a pair of 37-yard field goals.
On the offensive side of the ball, Waconia went as well as Swanson went.
Running the read option, Swanson started to his right, cut all the way across the field, got the corner and picked up 20 yards. On a third and 11, he made an on-target throw to wide receiver Will Koppi on a 15-yard pass over the middle. With the wet conditions, and in the spread the entire game, Swanson repeatedly handled low shotgun snaps. Instead of five-yard losses – or worse – that usually comes with a bad snap, he was able to create and pick up at least minimal gains every time. On a designed run, what should have been a two-yard gain turned into ten because Swanson broke multiple tackles near the line of scrimmage. He picked up 30 yards behind Gothmann and Althaus – he again broke a tackle for ten extra yards. On another occasion, the senior started to the right and got around the corner. He then cut all the way across the field for a 50-yard gain. Late in the game, he broke another tackle to pick up yards that should not have been there.
“I thought I played well,” Swanson said. “Obviously with the weather the passing wasn’t great. I thought I could have done better passing, but running I felt I did a good job fighting for yards.”
One of those throws that might not have been the best was on a 3rd and 8. Koppi made a leaping catch on the high throw. He added ten yards of run after catch for a twenty-yard gain.
Henriksen also came up with a big catch on a less than perfect throw. His leaping grab resulted in a twenty-yard gain.
Gothmann, Althaus and Max Schmidt, the right side of offensive line dominated the entire game. When they were not opening holes for Swanson, they were opening holes for Garnatz.
Gothmann and Althaus opened the hole that led to Garnatz’s short touchdown run that put the game away.
Although the game plan didn’t dictate it; left tackle Weber showed why even as a junior he is on Division I colleges’ radars. The Wildcats knew the strength of the Hawks’ defense was the right side and felt they had a bigger advantage behind Gothmann and company. When they did run to the left, Weber was up to the task. He sealed the edge and with Althaus coming across on a trap block, and opened a big hole for Garnatz off tackle. Running behind Weber and Jace Mack – while they didn’t account many explosive plays – always resulted in positive yards behind the left side. Weber’s play that most raised my eyebrows was when the junior completely buried his man to seal the edge, resulting in one of the best runs to the left all game.