Raider defense propels LP-A into Section 6-1A championship game
LAKE PARK - The Section 6-1A semifinal game in Lake Park between the No. 1 Raiders and No. 4 Osakis Silverstreaks resembled a mud-bogging race with two heavyweight 4x4 trucks plodding down a wet and sloppy track.
It wasn't fast and it wasn't pretty, but in the end, it was the Lake Park-Audubon Raiders winning by a nose with the 7-0 win Saturday.
The length of the nose was provided on senior running back Kenyon O'Brien's 40-yard punt return for a touchdown down the visitor's sideline with 11:05 left in the second quarter, as both teams had to play on the LP-A beat-up and muddy field.
That lead was all the Raiders needed due to a dominating performance by the LP-A defense, which limited the Silverstreaks to 96 total yards of offense in the entire game.
Special teams and field position also played important roles in the win, as punter Jesse Wixo continually pinned Osakis deep in its own territory, while LP-A started most of its drives in the Silverstreaks' territory.
The victory propels the Raiders to the Section 6-1A championship game for the first time since 1992. LP-A will face No. 3 Mahnomen Friday at 3 p.m. inside the FargoDome.
The win also was a perfect birthday gift -- albeit one which took some intense-filled moments to open -- for LP-A head coach Jed Swegarden.
"It's been the guys' goal since the first day of practice to make it to the section finals," Swegarden said. "The kids just have been playing their hearts out."
The players' goal actually has been set for much longer.
"Since we've been playing in eighth grade, it was our goal as a team to make the section championship game," O'Brien said. "It's just a great feeling making it there."
That trip would not have been reality if not for the Raider defense, which has literally carried LP-A to its first section title game in 16 years.
Osakis didn't threaten with a legitimate drive until its last one late in the fourth quarter.
It was the first time LP-A's defense bent, allowing Osakis to march from its own 16 to the Raider 34.
Up to then, the Silverstreaks had just two first downs and six three-and-out possessions, while starting deep in their own territory for the majority of the second half.
"Our defense has carried us all year," Swegarden said.
Osakis made one last push, picking up four of its six first downs in the game on that last drive, as well as 50 of its 96 net offensive yards in the series.
Running back Charles Jennings ran four straight times, picking up a total of 28 yards to the LP-A 43 to set the tone for the march.
A big fourth-and-10 conversion on a pass by quarterback Matthew Laven to Derek Waldvogel placed the Streaks on the LP-A 31 and a fresh set of downs, with under two-minutes left in the game.
But the bending was done by the Raider defense.
A negative three-yard run by Jennings was followed by an incompletion to set up third-and-13.
The Raiders' defensive line showed why it was one of the best in the section on the next two downs with two-game saving plays.
The first came on a flee-flicker gadget play by the Silverstreaks, which effectively sucked in the Raider secondary.
The slot receiver for Osakis broke open behind the LP-A safeties, but sophomore defensive lineman Steve Oak made sure the pass wasn't to be deliver by Laven.
Oak beat his man off the line and slammed into Laven just as he was passing, altering the attempt, which fluttered harmlessly to the ground.
"First, I saw it was a run and then saw the pitch back to the quarterback and I knew I was going to have to at least deflect the pass," Oak said. "I looked back and saw they had an open guy downfield after I hit the quarterback."
On fourth-and-13, it was much of the same, as senior defensive lineman Mike Olson wrangled Laven down to the ground in the backfield for a seven-yard sack to effectively end the game.
The only player to cross the pylons in the game was O'Brien on Osakis' first punt of the night.
Fielding the punt on the Silverstreak 40 yard line, O'Brien slipped through the first line of defenders and hit the right sideline.
O'Brien's lane was cleared open by several blocks, including a decleater on the 15-yard line by junior Bryan Ware, to break the speedy Raider back into the end zone.
"It was just a great blocking effort all around, I wasn't even touched," O'Brien said. "Bryan (Ware) had an excellent block to break me free at the end there."
Swegarden had an inkling with how sloppy the field was, the game was probably going to be won on the special team's side.
"We just worked and worked on our special teams because I thought that's what was going to do the deal," Swegarden said.
LP-A's defense wasn't the only defense to show up, as Osakis' defensive unit shut out the Raiders time and time again.
The Raiders had 159 net yards offensively, with Ware leading the way with 61 yards on three carries, including runs of 29 and 26 yards.
LP-A was hindered by untimely penalties, with seven for 50 yards.
Although LP-A's offense didn't produce any points, its main contribution came in the battle of field position.
The Raiders had just enough drives deep in Osakis' territory to keep the Silverstreaks pinned on their side to help out the Raider defense.
But the Osakis defense was also stout and also had some big stands, including holding LP-A on downs on the Osakis 16, after a fumble recovery set up the Raiders on the Streak's 20 in the first quarter.
"Our bread and butter is the dive play and Osakis has some big boys on the inside, so we couldn't get anything going," Swegarden said.
Jennings was held to 30 rushing yards, while Laven had 39 yards passing with one interception and LP-A quarterback Brian Gordon had 44 yards through the air with one pick.
Section 6-1A?semifinals:?(4) Osakis at (1)?Lake Park-Aubudon, Saturday, Oct. 25.
Raiders 7, Silver Streaks 0
Osakis - 0 0 0 0 -- 0
LP-A - 0 7 0 0 -- 7
LPA - Kenyon O'Brien 40-yard punt return; kick good. 11:05, 2nd quarter.
First Downs 7 6
By Rushing 5 4
By passing 2 2
By penalty 0 0
Net Yards Rushing 115 57
No. rushes 37 32
Yards gained 152 81
Yards lost 37 24
Net Yards Passing 44 39
No. passes 9 14
Completed 2 5
Incomplete 6 8
Had intercepted 1 1
Interception yards 5 48
Total Offensive Plays 51 54
TOTAL NET YARDS 159 96
Fumbles 1 2
Fumbles lost 1 2
Penalties 7 3
Yards 50 20
* * *
Player NR YG YL Net
Bryan Ware 3 61 0 61
Kenyon O'Brien 10 46 2 44
Bobby Lalonde 8 25 2 23
Brian Gordon 16 20 33 (-13)
Charles Jennings 21 47 17 30
No. 78 6 20 0 20
Derek Waldvogel 1 8 0 8
Jesse Becerra 3 6 0 6
Matt Laven 1 0 7 (-7)
* * *
Player No Comp Inc Int Yds TD
Gordon 9 2 6 1 44 0
Laven 14 5 8 1 39 0
* * *
Player No. Yds. TD
Zach Downs 1 25 0
Jesse Wixo 1 19 0
Waldvogel 2 23 0
Jennings 2 9 0
Becerra 1 7 0
* * *
Player No. Yds.
Wixo 1 5
Waldvogel 1 48
* * *
Player No. Yds. lost
Mike Olson 1 7
Trenton Johnson 2 13
Andrew Nack 1 8.