Raider football going to state
FARGO - The 2008 Lake Park-Audubon football team is going where no other Raider has gone before -- the Class 1A state football playoffs.
LP-A's historic season hit an apex Friday inside the Fargodome, as the top-seeded Raiders downed No. 4 Mahnomen 20-18 in the Section 6-1A championship game.
The Raiders' first-ever trip to the state playoffs have been a winding and sometimes bumpy trip over the course of the last decade or so, but the feelings were beyond exhilarating for the players, coaches and fans in attendance.
LP-A (9-2) will play its first state playoff game Friday in Duluth at the Public School Stadium at 8 p.m. against Section 7-1A champion Chisholm, which beat East Central 12-10.
"It just feels amazing," said junior running back Bobby Lalonde, who put his print on the game with the eventual game-winning touchdown. "I just can't describe it right now."
As has been par for the season, LP-A's defense made its statement often and in timely fashion.
The Raiders limited Mahnomen to six yards in the third quarter, while LP-A scored the tying and eventual go-ahead touchdowns using turnovers and its high-class speed.
"Speed kills," said Mahnomen head coach John Clark Jr. "They have very good speed and they used it."
LP-A's Kenyon O'Brien led the rushing attack with 89 yards, on a workmanlike 20 rushes. His between the tackles running opened up the perimeter, resulting in some big gains.
But it came down to defense in the end.
Raider junior defensive back Danny Ware prevented Mahnomen from tying the game late in the fourth quarter, with a clutch open-field tackle on Indian senior quarterback Logan Handyside, who was attempting to run in the two-point conversion.
Mahnomen pulled to within 20-18 on a 42-yard, six-play drive.
Handyside kept the drive alive after almost being sacked on a third and 13 play, then tossed it up to wide receiver Scott Beckman for a 37-yard catch down the left sideline to the LP-A eight-yard line.
A roughing the passer penalty moved Mahnomen to the four, with senior running back Anthony LaVoy reaching over the goal line with ball in hand on third and goal.
That set up the game-tying two-point conversion, which was originally a passing play. But LaVoy was blanketed in the end zone, as Handyside rolled right and scampered towards the end zone.
Ware took a perfect angle and hit Handyside high, bringing the Mahnomen QB about three yards shy of the much-needed two points.
Ware also stalled another Mahnomen drive deep in LP-A territory, with an interception in the series before on the Raider 15.
"First, I saw they were attempting to pass it, then saw (Handyside) start running towards the end zone," Ware said of the game-saving tackle on the two-point conversion. "I just went for the tackle and tried to wrap him up."
It's those types of plays that show why Ware is patrolling the perimeter, said LP-A head coach Jed Swegarden.
"That's why the Ware twins (Bryan and Danny) are outside, because of their speed and they both make plays," Swegarden said.
But Mahnomen's opportunities weren't yet dead, as a three and out by the Raiders on the ensuing drive set the Indians up on their own 27 yard line after a Zach Downs punt.
The game was eerily setting up like the first meeting of the teams during the middle of the season, when LaVoy hit a 44-yard field to win the game.
Mahnomen had 1:55 on the clock and one timeout for its last drive, but the Raiders' defense was once again up to the task, allowing one 18-yard pass from Handyside to Alex LaVoy to the 45, but nothing after that.
A sack by LP-A defensive lineman Thomas Brown and three incompletions by Handyside, who was under some heavy duress for the majority of the game, put the final nail in the Indian's coffin.
"We just wanted to give ourselves a chance in that last drive and if we could get into field goal range again, great," Clark said. "The kids did just that, though, they gave themselves a chance at the end."
Swegarden's thoughts were also going back to that game-losing field goal.
"I knew this was going to be a close game, it's always close when our two teams play," Swegarden said. "We just wanted to keep them out of field goal range."
The Raiders used their speed to perfection, despite a stringent Indian defensive line holding LP-A to 178 rushing yards and respectable 4.7 yards per carry average.
But LP-A had a handful of sweeps which went for big yardage -- including a 36-yard TD run by Bryan Ware in the first quarter and the game-winning 28-yard run by Lalonde.
Both big runs came on sweeps left, and both had huge blocks by LP-A receivers downfield.
On Ware's game-opening scoring TD, which put LP-A up 6-0, a Raider receiver had a seal block on the Mahnomen end to spring the speedy back, who went untouched to the end zone.
The Lalonde run was opened up on a Jake Lunde block of cornerback Handyside, as the Raider running back buzzed down the sideline and past the pylons.
"We've been trying to utilize our speed more by running more sweeps and working on blocking downfield," Lalonde said. "The defense was keyed on Kenyon O'Brien and that opened me up."
Swegarden said he wanted his rushing game to tire down the Mahnomen defense, which eventually helped spring Lalonde with 23.9 seconds left in the third quarter.
"We've also been working on our wide receivers blocking downfield the last three weeks," Swegarden added.
Mahnomen's biggest playmaker, Anthony LaVoy, did just that in the first quarter, with LP-A up 6-0 and threatening to take a two-touchdown lead on a drive leading to the Indian 23.
LaVoy blew up a pitch play by junior quarterback Brian Gordon to O'Brien, deflecting the ball and recovering it at the Mahnomen 36.
"Anthony played well, and he makes a lot of plays like that," Clark said of LaVoy.
The fumble recovery resulted in the Indians' first score, as running back Zach Neis took a late pitch by Handyside, which sucked in the LP-A linebackers and secondary for an 18-yard TD run.
Mahnomen's second touchdown came on a near-blocked punt in the Raider end zone; instead of the block, Downs was able to get it off to the Raider 23.
A 13-yard run by Anthony LaVoy was immediately followed by his 10-yard end zone rush up the middle for a 12-6 Mahnomen lead.
In the tide-turning third quarter, LP-A put together the tying drive on a fumble by Mahnomen deep in Indian territory at the 11.
It took four plays, as O'Brien plunged his way in on fourth and goal from the one.
Down 12-6 at halftime, the Raiders only needed to be reminded of one thing to come out firing on all cylinders in the third quarter.
"Being section champions, it was that simple," Danny Ware said. "We just wanted it so bad."
The game was as even as it could get, as LP-A had 245 yards of total offense, while Mahnomen recorded 235 yards.
But in the end, playing in their second-ever section championship (the first being in 1992) proved to be LP-A history.
"It's just absolutely awesome," Swegarden said. "For a number of years, the players believed and the coaches believed we could do something like this."
Section 6-1A results
Section 6-1A?championship at the Fargodome, Friday, Oct. 31:?(1)?Lake Park-Audubon vs. (4)?Mahnomen.
Raiders 20, Indians 18
Mahnomen - 6 6 0 6 -- 18
Lake Park-Audubon - 6 0 14 0 -- 20
LPA - Bryan Ware 36-yard run; kick blocked. 8:26, 1st quarter.
Mah - Zach Neis 18-yard run; kick failed. 2:01, 1st.
Mah - Anthony LaVoy 10-yard run; pass failed. 5:04, 2nd.
LPA - Keynon O'Brien 1-yard run; kick failed. 4:26, 3rd.
LPA - Bobby Lalonde 28-yard run; Brian Gordon run. 23.9, 3rd.
Mah - LaVoy 1-yard run; run failed. 3:47, 4th.
First Downs 9 14
By Rushing 6 8
By passing 3 4
By penalty 0 2
Net Yards Rushing 178 155
No. rushes 38 36
Yards gained 200 179
Yards lost 22 24
Net Yards Passing 67 80
No. passes 10 16
Completed 4 5
Incomplete 6 10
Had intercepted 0 1
Interception yards15 0
Total Offensive Plays 54 56
TOTAL NET YARDS 245 235
Kickoffs 4 4
Yards 173 124
Ave. kickoff 43.3 31
Kickoffs Returned 3 2
Yards 25 28
Ave. return 8.3 14
Fumbles 5 1
Fumbles lost 2 1
Penalties 10 2
Yards 69 10
* * *
Player NR YG YL Net
Kenyon O'Brien 20 98 9 89
Bobby Lalonde 7 58 0 58
Bryan Ware 2 36 1 35
Brian Gordon 9 8 12 (-4)
Logan Handyside 19 97 22 75
Anthony LaVoy 9 47 1 46
Zach Neis 5 32 1 31
Anthony Longfield 3 3 0 3
* * *
Player No Comp Inc Int Yds TD
Gordon 10 4 6 0 67 0
Handyside 16 5 10 1 80 0
* * *
Player No. Yds. TD
Zach Downs 3 32 0
Jesse Wixo 1 5 0
Longfield 3 25 0
Scott Beckman 1 37 0
LaVoy 1 18 0
* * *
Player No. Yds. Ave.
Wixo 4 173 43.3
LaVoy 4 124 31
* * *
Player No. Yds. Ave.
Wixo 2 20 10
Nick Hanson 1 5 5
Neis 2 28 14
* * *
Player No. Yds.
Danny Ware 1 15
* * *
Player No. Yds. lost
Steve Oak 1 7
Thomas Brown 1 4
Mike Jacobson 1 1