By PATRICK SLACK
A deep touchdown pass at the end of the first half and a kickoff return for a score to start the second propelled the Holdingford football team to a 34-0 victory over Upsala-Swanville Area (USA) and the Section 6AA championship at the Fargodome, Friday.
After forcing a stop to open the game, Holdingford seized an early lead on a 37-yard touchdown strike from junior Mitch Messman to senior Taylor Milbrandt to go ahead 7-0.
That score held deep into the second quarter, with USA threatening to tie on a drive to the Huskers’ 26-yard line.
But a stop on fourth-and-5 gave Holdingford the ball back with three minutes before halftime, and the Huskers took advantage.
After senior running back Jon Skwira moved the ball to midfield, Messman found a wide open senior wide receiver Cody Schwinghammer on a corner route for a 46-yard score, pushing Holdingford’s advantage to 14-0 at the break.
“We were just trying to put some more points up on the board,” Holdingford head coach Luke Mitchell said. “We can pass pretty well and feel fully comfortable with the ball in Mitch Messman’s hands.”
“With our defense playing the way it has been, we knew if we got up two scores that would be big,” he said. “With one touchdown, one big play, one fluke play, one missed tackle and the game is tied, so it changed our mind set at halftime and gave the kids a little momentum.”
The Huskers kept the momentum going and thwarted any chance of a comeback immediately in the third quarter, with Skwira returning the kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown to make it 21-0.
“We know they like to run the football so we knew if we could get them into passing situations, up three scores rather than two, that if they’re going to run the ball they were going to have to use the clock,” Mitchell said.
Skwira added a rushing touchdown from 11 yards away to make it 28-0 heading into the fourth quarter, then returned a fumble 85 yards for a touchdown to close the scoring in the final minutes.
Messman completed 9-of-12 passes for 160 yards and rushed for 34 to pace the Huskers’ offense.
Milbrandt caught two passes for 100 yards, Schwinghammer had four receptions for 61 yards and Skwira added 68 yards on the ground.
Defensively, junior Cody Bialka intercepted two passes and junior Jeremy Springer picked off a pass.
Skwira was the leading tackler with eight solo stops, with junior Mitch Merten and sophomore Nathan Brinker adding six apiece.
Senior Austin Mollner (52) and junior Mitch Lange (48) combined for 100 rushing yards to lead the USA offense, with senior Alec Griffith adding a 35-yard carry.
Griffith also made eight solo tackles and seven assists, Lange had seven solo stops and senior Garrett Wolf intercepted a pass.
USA finished the season with a 9-2 record.
Seniors on this year’s team included Austin Mollner, Eric Frieler, Nick Frieler, Garrett Wolf, Colten Kruzel, Tren Dinius, Brock Cichon, Andy Nelson, Alec Griffith, Avery Smieja, Austin Jorgenson, Grant Allen, Cory Wensmann, Sam Lange and Trevor Loxterkamp.
Holdingford will take on 10-0 Section 5AA champion BOLD in the Class AA quarterfinals at St. Cloud State University, Thursday at 7 p.m.
“They’re a very good defensive team, very similar to us in that sense,” Mitchell said. “They have three really good athletes in the backfield at quarterback and two running backs they like to run the football with and get after it. We haven’t seen one team do so much with their run game.”
Holdingford 34, USA 0
USA 0 0 0 0 – 0
Holdingford 7 7 14 6 – 34
HOLD: Taylor Milbrandt 37 pass from Mitch Messman (Kyle Kolstad kick).
HOLD: Cody Schwinghammer 46 pass from Messman (Kolstad kick).
HOLD: Jon Skwira 94 kickoff return (Kolstad kick).
HOLD: Skwira 11 run (Kolstad kick).
HOLD: Skwira 85 fumble return (kick failed).
USA—Rushing: Austin Mollner, 9-52; Mitch Lange, 15-48; Alec Griffith, 1-35; Tyler Evans, 2-23; Tren Dinius, 4-14; Brock Cichon, 3-10; Eric Frieler, 6-9. Passing: Frieler, 4-9, (-2). Receiving: Dinius, 1-11; Jordan Sales, 1-5. Defense: Griffith, 8 solo tackles, 7 assists; Lange, 7 solo tackles, 4 assists; Andy Nelson, 4 solo tackles, 3 assists; Austin Jorgensen, 4 solo tackles, 2 assists; Mollner, 4 solo tackles, 2 assists; Garrett Wolf, interception.
Holdingford—Rushing: Jon Skwira, 12-68; Mitch Messman, 16-34; Cody Bialka, 4-10; Taylor Nitz, 3-5; Jordan Gombos, 3-4. Passing: Messman, 9-12, 160. Receiving: Taylor Milbrandt, 2-100; Cody Schwinghammer, 4-61; Gombos, 1-6. Defense: Skwira, 8 solo tackles, 5 assists; Nathan Brinker, 6 solo tackles, 8 assists; Mitch Merten, 6 solo tackles, 1 assist; Matt Messman, 5 solo tackles, 7 assists; Gombos, 5 solo tackles, 3 assists; Bialka, 2 solo tackles, 2 interceptions; Jeremy Springer, interception.