Area football: Little Falls knocks off Princeton with late touchdown, Pierz defense shuts down high-powered Kimball offense

Sports Editor

Royalton junior wide receiver Jesse Popp gets behind Ottertail Central junior Jake Trosdahl (33) and senior Cole Eitzen and makes a leaping catch before taking it in for the opening touchdown, Friday.

Pierz 22, Kimball Area 6

The Kimball Area football team averaged 38 points to open the season with an undefeated 3-0 record.

Matched up with the Pierz defense, though, the host Cubs came away empty-handed, Sept. 21, as the Pioneers powered their way to a 22-6 triumph.

Neither team scored in the first quarter before junior Nathan Athman broke through on a 4-yard touchdown run to give Pierz a 6-0 lead before halftime.

The Pioneers added three more on a 22-yard field goal by senior Travis Johnson midway through the third quarter to go ahead 9-0.

After being stopped again on offense, Kimball scored its only points of the game late in the third on a 55-yard interception return, cutting the gap to 9-6 heading into the fourth quarter.

Royalton sophomore quarterback Brady Moulzolf looks downfield and sets to throw during the first quarter against visiting Ottertail Central, Sept. 21. Moulzolf connected on a 39-yard touchdown pass with junior Jesse Popp on the play and finished the night with 80 yards passing and 136 rushing.

But the time of possession disparity caught up to Kimball in the final session, as Pierz senior running back Josh Lanners powered his way into the end zone twice to seal the win.

Pierz ran 73 plays on offense compared to only 39 by Kimball, outgaining the Cubs 289-118.

Lanners accounted for the bulk of that yardage, carrying the ball 37 times for 165 yards and catching two passes for 17 yards.

Senior T.J. Hoheisel was the leading receiver for the Pioneers, making two receptions for 27 yards from senior quarterback Ben Boser, who completed 7-of-14 passes for 76 yards.

Defensively, junior Andy Kaspner had six tackles and one and a half sacks and junior Mac Gruber had four solo tackles and assisted on two others, with Kapsner and Boser each picking off a pass.


Little Falls 20, Princeton 14

The Little Falls defense celebrates after recovering a fumble inside its own 5-yard line in the third quarter, Friday, helping the Flyers secure a 20-14 win.

After a daunting schedule pitted the Little Falls football team against three of the premier teams in the state, the Flyers were not about to let a chance to earn its first win slip away, Sept. 21.

So after visiting Princeton erased an early two-touchdown deficit to tie the game up at 14-14 heading into the fourth quarter, Little Falls buckled down, found the end zone and made a dazzling interception to come out on top 20-14.

“Our team has done a great job of coming to practice every day trying to get better,” Little Falls head coach Jay DeCann said. “They have done that and have done a great job of pushing each other to stay positive and continue to get better as a team.”

“It was a huge confidence boost for the team to play Becker basically even for one half,” he said. “We just ran out of gas with Becker not having any two-way players.”

Following a scoreless first quarter of action, senior Spencer Fenske connected with senior Austin Bjorge on a 4-yard touchdown pass in the opening minute of the second to make it 6-0 and junior Jalen Wuchko broke free for a 65-yard touchdown scamper and punched in the two-point conversion to put the Flyers ahead 14-0.

But Princeton cut that lead in half with only 11 seconds remaining before halftime, then kept the momentum with a game-tying score midway through the third quarter.

With the Flyers moving the ball deeper and deeper into Princeton territory via a pounding rushing attack led by Wuchko, Little Falls caught the Tigers off guard with an 11-yard touchdown pass on a fade from Fenske to senior Collin Eckman for the go-ahead score with 2:51 remaining.

Princeton moved the ball near midfield on its ensuing possession, but sophomore Brighton Goodrich snared a tipped pass with an acrobatic, one-handed catch to secure a game-sealing interception.

“Our kids did an amazing job to refocus on base fundamentals and playing solid, tough, hard-nosed football when Princeton seemed to take all the momentum after tying the game,” DeCann said.

“The interception by Brighton was a big-time effort play,” he said. “He did not quit and he laid out and came up with the game-clinching play.”

Wuchko finished with 204 yards rushing on 21 carries and Fenske completed 7-of-10 passes for 41 yards to lead the Little Falls offense.

Junior Trysten Ross was the leading tackler for the Flyers with seven, while senior Randy Olson also intercepted a pass and junior Tom Tabatt recovered a fumble.

“It was a much needed win for our kids,” DeCann said. “They have worked so hard in the weight room and the practice field to be better football players. This was a great way for the kids to see the efforts of all their hard work pay off.”


Barnesville 22, Upsala-Swanville Area 14

In a clash of the final two undefeated football teams in the Prairie Conference North, fifth-ranked Barnesville held off host Upsala-Swanville Area (USA) 22-14, Sept. 21.

Battling rainy and windy conditions, a bad snap on a punt attempt resulted in Barnesville taking a 2-0 lead with a safety, a lead that would hold into the second quarter.

USA countered with a 45-yard touchdown run by senior Austin Mollner to go ahead 6-2, but Barnesville returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown to take an 8-6 edge into halftime.

Barnesville added on to its lead in the second half, scoring on a pair of touchdown runs to go ahead 22-6 before USA senior quarterback Eric Frieler snuck into the end zone from one yard out in the final minute.

The Patriots converted the two-point attempt to close within one possession at 22-14, but couldn’t recover an onside kick, allowing Barnesville to run out the clock.

Junior Mitch Lange rushed for 81 yards on 17 carries offensively and made 13 tackles and recovered a fumble on defense.

Frieler completed 9-of-23 passes for 71 yards, with senior Colten Kruzel making four receptions for 44 yards and senior Garrett Wolf snatching two passes for 24 yards.

Senior Alec Griffith added 12 tackles and a sack on defense, Kruzel made eight tackles and Wolf intercepted a pass.


Ottertail Central 36, Royalton 20

The Royalton football team came out blazing against visiting Ottertail Central (OTC), Sept. 21.

The Royals took advantage of a pair of turnovers, a deep pass and a lengthy quarterback run to build an early 12-0 lead, but OTC settled in and came away with a 36-20 win.

Royalton sophomore Brady Moulzolf connected with junior Jesse Popp on a 39-yard touchdown completion to open the scoring in the first quarter, then broke free on a big run to set up a 1-yard touchdown plunge by senior Tyler Hegna.

OTC cut the lead in half in the second quarter, but Royalton junior Tony Gadacz powered into the end zone from five yards out and senior Luke Wentland caught a two-point conversion pass to extend the Royals’ lead to 20-6.

The Bulldogs would score the final 30 points of the night, though, including 16 in the final quarter to break a 20-20 deadlock.

“Tonight was a tough loss,” Royalton head coach Jamie Morford said. “We played a great first half and in the second half the injury bug struck us and when you play small school football you need to stay as healthy as possible. To lose one player means you probably lose that person in all three aspects of the game, so it’s like losing three people.”

“Give credit for the OTC players and staff as they fought and clawed back into the game,” he said. “I am proud of our guys as we came out ready to play and executed the game plan as close to the script as possible.”

Moulzolf finished with 136 yards rushing and 80 passing, with Wentland catching three passes for 41 yards.

Gadacz added 78 yards on the ground on 23 attempts and Hegna contributed 40 yards on six rushes.


Holdingford 41, Eden Valley-Watkins 7

Junior Mitch Messman threw a pair of touchdown passes and rushed for two more to lead the Holdingford football team to a 41-7 demolition of visiting Eden Valley-Watkins (EVW), Sept. 21.

Messman completed 6-of-10 passes on the night for 77 yards while also carrying the ball 12 times for 54 yards.

Junior Cody Bialka was Messman’s top target with three catches for 39 yards and a score and senior Jon Skwira hauled in a 15-yard touchdown pass.

Skwira added 82 rushing yards and junior Jordan Gombos picked up 53 yards and a touchdown.

Holdingford improved to 3-0 in the Central Minnesota Conference with the win, one of two teams still unbeaten.


View more photos from Little Falls vs. Princeton via this link

View more photos from Royalton vs. Ottertail Central via this link

Pierz 22, Kimball Area 6

Pierz 0 6 3 13 – 22

Kimball Area 0 0 6 0 – 6




PZ: Nathan Athman 4 run (kick blocked), 4:58.


PZ: Travis Johnson 22 field goal, 4:40.

KIM: Wittenberg 55 interception (kick failed), 2:03.


PZ: Josh Lanners 1 run (Johnson kick), 10:18.

PZ: Lanners 5 run (kick failed), 0:58.

Pierz—Rushing: Josh Lanners, 37-165; Nathan Athman, 13-28; Ben Boser, 3-21; Andy Kapsner, 4-5. Passing: Boser, 7-14, 76. Receiving: T.J. Hoheisel, 2-27; Lanners, 2-17; Jon Fuhrman, 1-15; Brad Meyer, 1-13; Brady Dorn, 1-4. Defense: Kapsner, 6 tackles, 1.5 sacks, interception; Mac Gruber, 4 solo tackles, 2 assists; Boser, interception.


Little Falls 20, Princeton 14

Princeton 0 7 7 0 – 14

Little Falls 0 14 0 6 – 20




LF: Austin Bjorge 4 pass from Spencer Fenske (kick failed), 11:27.

LF: Jalen Wuchko 65 run (Wuchko run), 7:14.

PRIN: Chmielewski 4 pass from Ludwig (kick), 0:11.


PRIN: Chmielewski 27 pass from Ludwig (kick), 5:06.


LF: Eckman 11 pass from Fenske (kick failed), 2:50.

Little Falls—Rushing: Jalen Wuchko, 21-204; Trysten Ross, 4-7; Jordan Petrone, 5-6; Collin Eckman, 1-2. Passing: Fenkse, 7-10, 41. Receiving: Eckman, 5-26; Collin Gradin, 1-11; Austin Bjorge, 1-4. Defense: Trysten Ross, 7 tackles; Brighton Goodrich, 6 tackles, interception; Bryce Zawatzke, 6 tackles; Tyler Gastecki, 4 tackles; Randy Olson, 3 tackles, interception; Tom Tabatt, tackle, fumble recovery.


Barnesville 22, Upsala-Swanville Area 14

Barnesville 2 6 8 6 – 22

Upsala-Swanville Area 0 6 0 8 – 14


BARN: Barnesville safety


USA: Austin Mollner 45 run (conv. failed)

BARN: Martz 75 kickoff return (conv. failed)


BARN: Strand 5 run (conv. good)


BARN: Nosal 15 run (kick)

USA: Eric Frieler 1 run (conv. good)

USA—Rushing: Mitch Lange: 17-81; Austin Mollner, 7-29; Brock Cichon, 2-8; Eric Frieler, 5-4. Passing: Frieler, 9-23, 71. Receiving: Colten Kruzel, 4-44; Garrett Wolf, 4-24; Nick Frieler, 1-3. Defense: Mitch Lange, 13 tackles, fumble recovery; Alec Griffith, 12 tackles, 1 sack; Kruzel, 8 tackles; Kyle Lange, 5 tackles; Garrett Wolf, interception.


Ottertail Central 36, Royalton 20

Ottertail Central 0 14 6 16 – 36

Royalton 12 8 0 0 – 20


ROY: Jesse Popp 39 pass from Brady Moulzolf (kick failed).

ROY: Tyler Hegna 1 run (pass failed).


OTC: Smith 1 run (pass failed).

ROY: Tony Gadacz 5 run (Luke Wentland reception).

OTC: Trosdahl 15 pass from Smith (Smith run).


OTC: Trosdahl 8 run (kick failed).


OTC: Trosdahl 10 run (Smith run).

OTC: Trosdahl 7 run (Trosdahl run).

Royalton—Rushing: Brady Moulzolf, 12-136; Tony Gadacz, 23-78; Tyler Hegna, 6-40. Passing: Moulzolf, 4-9, 80. Receiving: Luke Wentland, 3-41; Jesse Popp, 1-39.