By PATRICK SLACK
Pelican Rapids kept within striking distance in the early stages of the Section 6AA semifinals, looking as if it may have a chance to spring a huge upset.
Then the Holdingford machine clicked on.
After holding a slim 12-10 lead early on in the second quarter, the top-seeded host Huskers rattled off 36 unanswered points on their way to a 48-18 drubbing, Oct. 26, moving within one win of a repeat trip to state.
“I think we settled down after the 12-10 point of the game,” Holdingford head coach Luke Mitchell said. “On both of their scoring drives, they had a shorter field to work on. When we made them drive the ball, we did really well.
“Our players were a little nervous early in the game, simply because they were playing a team they did not know a lot about,” he said. “PR had a tremendous running back in (Ryan) Bruggeman. It took us a little time to play to his speed.”
Once the Huskers did, they were able to limit Bruggeman to 79 yards rushing on 20 carries and an early touchdown, while their own offense found its stride.
Senior quarterback Mitch Messman completed 8-of-10 passes for 119 yards and a score, while running for another 115 yards and three touchdowns.
Senior Jordan Gombos added 129 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, with senior Jeremy Springer finishing with 49 receiving yards and a score.
“The offense struggled early with fumbles and drops,” Mitchell said. “Once we cleaned those up, our offense did extremely well. Our O-line opened some great holes for our runners. Once we got the run game going, it opened up some one-on-one opportunities for our pass offense.”
Holdingford, which defeated eighth-seeded Staples Motley 40-0 in the first round, was scheduled to play third-seeded Ottertail Central in the section championship game at the Fargodome, Friday.
Ottertail Central defeated sixth-seeded Long Prairie-Grey Eagle 47-8 in the first round and second-seeded Breckenridge 22-19 in the semifinals.
The winner advances to the state quarterfinals, where it will play the winner of the Section 8AA championship game between Hawley and Barnesville.
That game will be played at Concordia-Moorhead, Saturday, Nov. 9 at 1 p.m.