By PATRICK SLACK
Holdingford has kept the blinders on all season, focusing in on each week’s opponent and not looking too far down the road.
But now, after 11 straight wins, the moment the undefeated Huskers have been waiting for since last season ended in double overtime in the state quarterfinals is at hand.
Holdingford took care of Otter Tail Central (OTC) 32-14 in the Section 6AA championship at the Fargodome, Nov. 1, sealing a return trip to the state and giving the Huskers another shot at earning a trip to the Metrodome after coming so close last fall.
“I feel we have done a great job of not looking ahead,” Holdingford head coach Luke Mitchell said. “We see each game as a new challenge. We are very happy to be back at state and we hope we can play in the Dome.”
To get that opportunity, Holdingford will need to get past Section 8AA champion Hawley in the state quarterfinals, scheduled to be played at Concordia College-Moorhead, Saturday, Nov. 9.
A heavy favorite in the section championship game, despite the nine-game winning streak OTC carried into the contest, Holdingford capitalized on an early turnover to take a 7-0 lead on the first of senior quarterback Mitch Messman’s three 1-yard touchdown runs.
Messman found senior wide receiver Jeremy Springer with a 12-yard touchdown pass later in the quarter to make it 14-0, as it appeared a rout was in the making.
But it was then OTC’s turn to use a turnover to set up a score, cutting the margin in half to 14-7.
It looked as if it would remain that way heading into halftime as Holdingford had the ball at midfield with time dwindling.
However, Messman heaved up a deep pass that Springer leapt up and snagged for a 51-yard touchdown on the final play of the half, sending Holdingford on its way as it was never threatened in the second half.
“The touchdown at the end of the half was huge,” Mitchell said. “It gave the momentum back to us. It also got our fans reenergized in the game. It gave us a lot of confidence going into the second half.”
Springer also added an interception during the game to help lead the Holdingford defense, with junior Matt Messman recording 16 solo tackles and recovering a fumble and junior Jake Knettel also picking off a pass.
“Jeremy has been a tremendous player for us this year,” Mitchell said. “On defense, he patrols the center of the field as well as anyone I have seen this year. He has great instincts. On offense, he has come up with a lot of key receptions and he has a nose for the end zone.
“We knew that OTC had an outstanding team,” he said. “They had won nine games in a row and had several shutouts this year. They had some good size players with good speed. We did a good job of not giving up any real big plays, while we were able to get some momentum-changing plays.”
Mitch Messman completed 9-of-14 passes for 183 yards and ran for another 70 yards to lead the Holdingford offense, with Springer making three receptions for 86 yards.
This will be the 11th overall state tournament appearance for Holdingford, winning a state title in 1981.
Hawley is making its 14th overall appearance and is still in search of its first title.
The Nuggets, 9-1 on the year, reached state by defeating previously unbeaten Barnesville 42-21 in its section final.
“Hawley is a traditional 2A power,” Mitchell said. “They have made it to state several times, they are a very well-coached football team, they have good size and they are mentally and physically tough. We need to make sure we do not turn the ball over and win the battle of field position.”
The winner of the game will take on the winner between ninth-ranked Chatfield and seventh-ranked Jackson County Central in the state semifinals at the Metrodome in Minneapolis, Friday at 11:30 a.m.
Holdingford 32, Otter Tail Central 14
Otter Tail Central 0 7 0 7 – 14
Holdingford 14 6 6 6 – 32
HOLD: Mitch Messman 1 run (run failed).
HOLD: Jeremy Springer 12 pass from Messman (Springer pass from Messman).
OTC: Trosdahl 1 run (Ukkelberg kick).
HOLD: Springer 51 pass from Messman (pass failed).
HOLD: Messman 1 run (run failed).
OTC: Trosdahl 1 run (Ukkelberg kick).
HOLD: Messman 1 run (pass failed).
Holdingford—Rushing: Jordan Gombos: 13-94; Mitch Messman: 22-70. Passing: Messman: 9-14, 183. Receiving: Jeremy Springer: 3-86; Gombos: 2-44; Cody Bialka: 5-36; Nick Catton: 1-17. Defense: Matt Messman: 16 solo tackles, fumble recovery; Nathan Brinker: 10 solo tackles; Jake Knettel: interception; Springer: interception.
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