Eagles to take on Mayer Lutheran on Saturday at US Bank Stadium
By Chad Koenen
New York Mills did something that no other team was able to do this season—hand Deer River a loss.
On a cold and snowy Friday night, which featured a slick football and field conditions, the NY Mills Eagles overwhelmed the Warriors on the defensive side of the ball to come away with a 20-6 win in the opening round of the state football tournament.
After NY Mills fumbled the opening kick off, the Warriors marched the ball right down the field behind a powerful running attack. They got the ball all the way down to the 5-yard line where they had a first and goal, but the Eagles defense stood tall and didn’t let Deer River in the end zone.
NY Mills took over on offense and put together a time consuming drive that ended with an Eathan Ruther touchdown run in the second quarter to give NY Mills a 6-0 lead. On the very next drive, Brayden Ehnert intercepted a pass and took it back to the end zone for 14-yards to quickly give the Eagles a 12-0 lead. Bren Salo found Noah Noffsinger in the end zone to give NY Mills a 14-0 lead.
After a Salo punt pinned the Warriors deep in their own territory, Joseph Herfindahl took the ball and scampered 97-yards for a touchdown to make the score 14-6 in favor of NY Mills at halftime. That one run accounted for nearly half of the entire total offense the Warriors accumulated on Friday night.
“We played an outstanding game in all three phases of the contest. If you take away the long touchdown run they barely had 100 yards of offense,” said head coach Matt Radniecki. “Our defense has played well and responded to every challenge. The first drive, stopping them four plays from inside the five, and then getting the ball and going 95 yards was a huge confidence and momentum swing for both teams.”
After a scoreless third quarter, NY Mills essentially put the game out of reach when they once again marched down the field from Warrior territory on a time consuming drive that left little time on the clock. The drive was capped by a Salo 12-yard touchdown run to make the game 20-6 in favor of NY Mills.
“The boys played very crisp and we did and executed on offense,” said Radniecki. “Eathan Ruther had 61 yards, Bren Salo had 48 yards, Jonah Johnson had 47 yards, and Dane Niemi had 21 yards giving us that balance in the ground game.”
Throughout the game the Eagles were able to put together long, time consuming drives, even if they weren’t able to get into the end zone as they dominated the time of possession.
Radniecki said he was pleased with how the team was able to chew up the clock and keep their offense on the field, especially late in the game.
“I am extremely pleased with how we were able to continue to eat up clock and not give them a chance at the end of the game,” said Radniecki. “Thanks to our fans who were awesome on Friday night. It has been great and we hope to see even more of you at US Bank stadium on Saturday in the semi-finals at 11:30.”
NY Mills will keep their magical season alive this week as they will take on the Mayer Lutheran Crusaders on Saturday morning at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. The Crusaders won the Section 2A title and are 11-1 on the season. Their lone loss was to Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop on the opening game of the season. They defeated the Section 3A champion Murray County Central in the opening round of state by a score of 34-8.
The Crusaders are currently the fifth ranked team in the QRF and average 37.8 points per game on offense, while they give up 8.3 points per game on defense.
NY Mills, on the other hand, are 10-1 on the season and average 31.7 points per game on offense and give up just 7.6 points per game on defense. They remain as the second lowest scoring defense on a points per game basis in Class A, behind just Minneota.
On the other side of the state tournament bracket, Minneota crushed Mahnomen/Waubun by a score of 34-0 and Rushford-Peterson got by Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa by a score of 18-6. They will play at 9 a.m. on Saturday at US Bank Stadium.
The two semi-final winners will play in the Class A state championship game on Friday, Nov. 26 at 10 a.m. at US Bank Stadium.