As the game played out, it was apparent the Mahnomen/Waubun Thunderbirds were the superior team to the Springfield Tigers. The 38-0 final score would be the ultimate proof of that, but in the 1A semi-final game, the bounces early went the way of the Thunderbirds. They would take advantage.
Springfield was moving the ball on their opening drive. However, a Tigers’ fumble would find the hands of a Thunderbird defender to stop the drive. Mahnomen/Waubun’s Jon Starkey fumbled a handoff, but the ball bounced right back to him. On the run, he broke a couple of tackles cut back across the field and picked up a first down. The fortunate bounce and impressive run set up the Thunderbirds’ first touchdown.
Quarterback Parker Syverson‘s physical run ended in a short touchdown. Then he ran the option for the two-point conversion to take an 8-0 lead.
The Wildcat defense forced a quick punt. On the next offensive play for the Thunderbirds saw Izaiah Asher sprint around the corner for a 55-yard touchdown run. Not to be outdone, Syverson ran over a defensive back for the two-point conversion to bump the lead to 16-0 with five minutes to play in the first quarter.
Syverson made an impact on the defensive side of the ball on the next possession. Jayden Heisler came clean on a blitz and forced the quarterback into a bad thrown. Syverson was able to take advantage of the bad throw with an Interception.
The bounces continued to go Mahnomen/Waubun’s way. After a long run by Starkey, the Thunderbirds fumbled inside the five-yard line. They were able to jump on the loose ball again. Two plays later, Jeffrey Cukla – usually a blocking back/offensive lineman – powered in a short touchdown run. The two-point conversion gave the Thunderbirds a commanding 24-0 lead.
With the defense creeping up to stop the run, quarterback Starkey hit a little pop pass to Treston Spalla. There were no defenders around and 65-yards later the Wildcats were back in the end zone. With the halftime lead at 31-0, the route was on.
The entire game, but especially in the first half, Chris Podlak, Justin Littlewolf, Chase Dorman, John Clark, and Will Starkey dominated the line of scrimmage. They opened holes on the designed runs between the tackles. They consistently set the edge on the runs to the outside. The offense moved the ball in the air too, and the offensive line kept the pass rush at bay most of the day.
Defensively the three-man line of Cukla, Littlewolf, and Chandler Toczek put pressure on the quarterback and kept the linebackers clean. It allowed the linebackers to fly all over the field. That freedom allowed the linebackers to get outside to keep Springfield’s passes into the flat for minimal gains.
Late in the first half, Springfield was in the middle of their best drive of the game, but the Thunderbirds’ Will Bly intercepted a fade route near the goal line to keep the Tigers off the scoreboard.
Both defenses would keep the other off the scoreboard in the third quarter. However, the Thunderbirds did drive into the red zone late in the quarter to set up an early fourth-quarter touchdown pass from Starkey to Spalla.
With a 38-0 lead the fourth quarter, Mahnomen/Waubun didn’t need any additional bounces to go its way as they quickly subbed down and cruised to a 38-0 victory and a date with BOLD in the 1A championship game next week.