Cover image from mnhshp.com
I had not seen the Rochester Lourdes Eagles this season until the 3A championship game Saturday afternoon. With the success they had – finishing the season undefeated – I think it is safe to assume the running game and defense – were two reasons they were in the title game. That formula would work one more time for the Eagles in their defeat of the Fairmont Cardinals 24-7.
Finishing the game with over 230 yards rushing, the primary offensive weapon for Lourdes was running back Zach Jungels. Jungels used good feet and power to turn a sure loss into a first down. On the run Jungles took a perfect option pitch from quarterback Matthew Hayford – who was being tackled as he made the pitch. On a straight handoff, Jungels picked up big yards right up the middle behind a nice block by offensive lineman Zach Nickels. Later, Jungels, he picked up big yards because of the read and quick cut he made. Next, he bounced off a tackle on an option play for positive yards. The combination of Riley Schaefer‘s block and Dahlton Krahn‘s trap block opened a hole for Jungels for a big gain. Schaefer then sealed the edge to spring Jungels for a touchdown.
Jungels not only benefited from solid offensive line play, but he also took advantage of having fullback Jake Groteboer. On most of the interior runs, Jungels was following Groteboer. A physical blocker, I observed at least two pancake blocks thrown by the senior. Groteboer is also a threat with the ball in his hands – especially in between the tackles He got into the end zone on a powerful three-yard touchdown run. He has the low pad level coaches like to see not only when blocking, but also when carrying the ball. Jungles used a later Groteboer block to spin his way for fifteen yards.
When Hayford wasn’t simply handing the ball off, he helped his running backs out by making proper reads while running the option.
The offensive line was key to Lourdes physical style of offense. Nickels threw the key block on Jungels’ final touchdown run. Later in the game, Michael Frain and Krahn opened a huge hole to spring Jungels on yet another long run.
Schaefer made an impact on both sides of the ball. He had three sacks. Two of the sacks he basically got on his own. The third was partially because of the pressure Mark Ustby put on the quarterback. Then Schaefer made a tackle on the edge. Schaefer also shed a block and stuffed a run in the middle. The junior then made a solo tackle for a short gain and then combined with Andrew Peine to blow up another run for little or no gain. Finally, with Julian Bretton holding the edge, Schaefer made another tackle for a short loss.
Along with his pressure leading to a sack, Ustby came up with a sack of his own. He added a pair of tackles behind the line of scrimmage – one of those with help from Matthew Sather. He also got his hands on a couple of passes.
With the way Fairmont’s offense was attacking the Eagles’ defense – mainly through the air and on the edges – it was not going to be a game where inside linebacker Groteboer was going to have his normal impact on the defensive side of the ball. The senior inside linebacker was credited with four tackles for the game and maintained a physical presence in the middle of the Eagles’ defense.
Along with his quarterbacking duties, Hayford tipped a pass in the secondary. On a fourth down late in the game, he had great coverage on a deep ball. He was smart enough not to intercept the pass – saving his team twenty yards of field position.
Two other members of the Eagles’ secondary made huge touchdown-saving plays. On an earlier fourth and goal, Pat Leary had perfect coverage on his receiver and forced an incompletion. On the last play of the first half, Trey Billmeier broke up a pass at the goal line – preventing another score. Although not in the end zone, Will Kopischke also stopped a drive in its’ tracks with a fumble recovery.