Lakers pull off classic comeback to advance to Section 8-4A title game
The circumstances were bleak for the Section 8-4A top-seeded Detroit Lakes football team, as it was seeing its season potentially being run out by the No. 5 Albany Huskies on Mollberg Field Saturday evening.
Facing a new set of downs with less than two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter and trailing 22-21, Laker head coach Flint Motschenbacher called a play no defense ever wants to hear – allowing the player score.
Many things had to work in DL’s favor and unbelievably, those bleak circumstances turned into one of the Lakers’ biggest playoff comebacks in their storied history, as they pulled off a 29-28 stunner to advance to the Section 8-4A championship game, which is next Saturday at Concordia College at 1 p.m.
“Getting a win like that, we’re going to be a different team come Monday,” said senior wideout and secondary player Casey Paskey. “It definitely gives us momentum.”
For the Lakers’ sake, the fortunate set of circumstances actually started by allowing Albany senior running back Andrew Salzl to run a 64-yard touchdown, after the Huskies converted a third and one with time ticking away with a 22-21 lead.
The next step was to stop the Huskies' two-point conversion.
“Man, it was tough allowing (Salzl) run that touchdown, no defense likes seeing that happen against them and just watch him run untouched,” said Paskey, who also had a 59-yard touchdown reception late in the second quarter. “But that was the only way to get the ball back with time on the clock.”
With junior running back Shane Olmscheid getting stuffed short of the goal line on the two-point conversion attempt, a new breath of life was blown into the Lakers’ hopes, now only trailing by one score at 28-21.
DL senior quarterback Michael Herzog started the would-be winning drive with 1:51 remaining on the clock and positioned on the DL 29.
“Our backs were against the wall,” said DL head coach Flint Motschenbacher. “When they got that first down, we allowed them to score and stopped them on their two-point conversion.
“That allowed us to run our two-minute offense.”
A calm Herzog stayed poised in the pocket and hit Paskey on the sidelines for six yards.
Beforehand, Herzog did the offensive damage with his legs on the read option, as the Huskies were committed to stopping senior running back Jarett Nosal’s perimeter runs.
Herzog rushed for a season-high 239 yards on 31 carries.
But he knew for the Lakers to have a shot, he was going to have to complete passes.
“They were in a prevent defense, so we just went out and attacked it,” Herzog said.
The season came down to a fourth and four on DL’s 35, as Herzog threw a perfect strike down the visitors’ sideline, as junior wideout Ryan Cihak – who was the secondary read - went up at the highest point of the ball and came down with it for a 28-yard gain, but more importantly, a new set of downs.
“Cihak went up and made the play,” Herzog said. “This was my last drive at Mollberg Field, so I wanted to make it count.”
Herzog hit Cihak again in the middle of the field for a 20-yard gain. Cihak hauled in his third consecutive pass for a four yard gain to the Husky 13.
All of Cihak’s three receptions in the game came in that clutch drive, with his catches accounting for 52 of the 71 yards in the series.
An incomplete pass set up second and six, as Herzog called his own number and took a huge hole in the middle of the defense and scurried for a 13-yard touchdown.
“We still had one timeout left, so we could call a draw at the time,” Motschenbacher said.
With pandemonium happening in the end zone, there was still work to be done, as DL still trailed 28-27.
“We were celebrating in the end zone and the coaches were huddled on the sideline, then Flint yelled out, ‘What do you think?’” Herzog said. “He asked one or two? I just said we have to go for two. Against Princeton last year in the state playoff game (which DL lost in four overtimes), we tried to win it with a field goal.
“We have a lot of faith and we either wanted to go down swinging, or win the game.”
The two-point conversion call in itself was gutsy, as Herzog handed the ball off to junior wideout Christian Hedstrom, who also serves as the backup QB.
Herzog sprinted around left end, as a Husky linebacker was in hot pursuit in coverage.
Hedstrom pumped the ball up into the corner of the end zone, as Herzog came down with the eventual winning two-point reception.
“If Christian would have thrown it where we practiced it during the week, it would have never been completed,” Herzog said. “Instead, he threw it to the pylons and gave me shot at it.”
With just 47 seconds left, Albany went down on fourth and ninth by a host of Lakers meeting at the quarterback.
The thrilling Down and Out Comeback was complete.
“It’s just another Laker win for us,” Motschenbacher said of the playoff victory. “What it means, is we are alive to play another game.”
The Lakers’ 21-point second quarter was overshadowed by the amazing ending. The Lakers scored on the first play of the second quarter on a six-yard Herzog run to cap an 86-yard drive, which took 12 plays, with the longest third down conversion being two yards.
A pair of big rushes by Herzog (15 yards) and Nosal (16) sparked DL’s second scoring drive, as Herzog went in from 15 yards to give the Lakers a 14-6 lead.
The final score for the Lakers in the quarter came on a two-play series, with Herzog hitting Paskey in stride for a 59-yard touchdown.
For much of the game, Herzog was finding success making his option read through the defensive line, with much of the Huskies’ attention on stopping Nosal’s running.
“We haven’t been running that as much and we went back to it,” Herzog said. “I think our intensity was just much higher for this game than it has for the last couple of weeks.”
DL junior kicker Luke Payne also was a perfect 3-for-3 on his PAT kicks, which in the end, proved valuable.
Albany scored three consecutive touchdowns to garner their 22-21 lead, with a one-yard run by Shane Olmscheid, which capped a 15-yard drive, after DL’s punt went seven yards deep in their own territory.
The Lakers ended up turning the ball over on downs with 2:45 left in the game, setting up Salzl’s allowed touchdown.
Nosal still had a solid game rushing the ball with 58 yards on 15 carries, while Salzl had 109 yards on 10 carries, with the majority of them coming on the 64-tard TD run.
Herzog was 6-17 passing for 129 yards, a touchdown and one interception.
The Lakers (8-1) will face No. 2 Thief River Falls (7-2) for the Section 8-4A championship, after the Prowlers defeated Rocori 44-16 in the other semifinal game.
Section 8-4A semifinals: (5) Albany at (1) Detroit Lakes, Saturday, Oct. 26.
Huskies 6 8 0 14 - 28
Lakers 0 21 0 8 - 29
Alb: Taylor Fourre 1-yard run; run failed. 4:52, 1st. quarter.
DL: Michael Herzog 6-yard run; Luke Payne kick. 11:55, 2nd.
DL: Herzog 15-yard run; Payne kick. 8:55, 2nd.
DL: Casey Paskey 59-yard pass from Herzog; Payne kick. 3:43, 2nd.
Alb: Andrew Salzl 14-yard pass from Fourre; Carter Holthaus pass from Fourre. 36.5, 2nd.
Alb: Shane Olmscheid 1-yard run; Olmscheid run. 6:46, 4th.
Alb: Andrew Salzl 64-yard run; run failed. 1:57, 4th.
DL: Herzog 13-yard run; Herzog pass from Christian Hedstrom. 49.6, 4th.
Rushing (att-yds-td) – DL: Michael Herzog 31-239-3; Jarett Nosal 15-58-0. TOTAL: 46-297-3…Alb: Andrew Salzl 10-109-1; Taylor Fourre 15-66-1; Carter Holthaus 11-50-0; Shane Olmscheid 12-36-1; Nick Mergen 3-10-0. TOTAL: 51-271-3.
Passing (att-comp-inc-int-yds-td) – DL: Herzog 17-6-10-1-129-1…Alb: Fourre 12-6-6-0-54-0.
Receiving (rec-yds-td) – DL: Casey Paskey 3-77-1; Ryan Cihak 3-52-0…Alb: Salzl 4-36-0; Neal Anderson 2-18-0.