The Waseca running game ate up yards as steady as the mist fell Friday in Jordan in a 42-15 upset victory over the Class 3A No. 3-ranked Hubmen.
It was a little bit by design and a little bit out of necessity but the Class 4A Bluejays turned to the ground game for the majority of the game against Jordan and it paid off in a victory that provided a huge rebound following a difficult 19-18 loss to Class 4A No. 6-ranked Marshall a week ago in Waseca’s homecoming game.
When the schedule came out, it seemed unlikely that Friday’s game against the Hubmen, a Class 3A semifinalist last season that graduated just six starters, would provide an opportunity to right things. But then again Bluejays head coach Brad Wendland has shown the ability to turn things around in his tenure at Waseca.
Wendland is in his 12th year leading the team. He took over in 2006, a year after the Bluejays concluded a winless 2005 season. Waseca went 7-3 his first year and he’s had just one losing season in 12 years. Wendland has gone 85-42 including this season as the Bluejays moved to 4-2 on the year with the win.
“We talked early in the week that mental toughness was going to be a huge thing this week,” Wendland said. “We were emotionally drained after Marshall. It was homecoming, it was a game we felt we kind of let slip away. We came in Monday after a very physical game and guys were banged up and emotionally drained. Coaches were emotionally drained. I’m very, very proud of the mental toughness that this team showed during the week and our senior leadership helped get us there.”
Senior quarterback Hunter Rodriguez helped provide that senior leadership. He rushed for two touchdowns, a 31-yard, diving run in the first quarter to tie the game 7-7 and later a 10-yard run to cap the scoring and make it a 42-15 game after the extra point. Rodriguez relied on his legs more than normal because a shoulder injury limited his passing ability.
The run game proved the perfect route on a wet night.
Jordan, a potent offensive team that came in averaging 273 yards passing per game, saw its passing game get grounded. Quarterback Bryce Sievers threw four interceptions and the Hubmen finished with five turnovers in the game.
Sievers looked good early, connecting with Ryan Samuelson on a 44-yard touchdown pass 58 seconds into the game but Jordan (5-1) didn’t score again until there was 4:36 left in the third quarter. Sievers completed a 19-yard pass to Marlon Wiley for the score and a two-point conversion made it a 28-15 Waseca lead.
Wiley, a wide receiver who’s received a Division I offer from Howard University and a two-time Class A 100-meter sprint state champion, had two receptions in the first half before Jordan started finding him more frequently in the second half. Wiley caught seven passes in the second half, including a 35-yarder that put the ball on the Waseca 15-yard line. But the Hubmen couldn’t convert on a fourth-and-1 from the 6-yard line trailing 35-15 early in the fourth quarter.
The Bluejays stayed with the run and featured senior running back Joe Hagen, who rushed for two touchdowns. Fellow senior running back Hayden Groll also added a pair of touchdown runs.
“They were loading one side and we just went where they didn’t have matchups,” said Rodriguez, who has garnered attention from Division-II schools in Minnesota.
Pretty simple, but more importantly, those run-fueled possessions kept Jordan’s quick-strike offense off the field. Waseca ran nearly seven minutes off the clock in the fourth quarter alone with a 12-play drive that ultimately stalled out at the Hubmen’s 36-yard line.
“I think it is probably the best we’ve played all year,” Wendland said. “Our line is good and our line has been good.”
The difference was that the Bluejays committed far fewer penalties than they have and had just one turnover.
Sievers came into the game with 1,556 yards passing, 16 touchdowns and six interceptions. He averaged 311 yards per game. Wiley had 33 receptions for 512 yards and Samuelson led the team with eight touchdown receptions.
“It’s a lot of playoff points because they’re going to get a lot of wins,” Wendland said. “October football, that’s when football gets real and we’re off to a great start.”
The Bluejays get St. Peter next Friday after Marshall dismantled Class 3A No. 7-ranked St. Peter 49-0.