Waubun takes the defensive approach to state semifinals
It wasn't in the usual fashion the Waubun Bombers use to win, but it was a win nonetheless --?and it was one of the biggest victories in school's history.
Waubun (10-0) overcame a feisty Littlefork-Big Falls team 12-6 in the State 9-Man quarterfinals, which was played in the Duluth Public Schools Stadium Friday.
Although the score was low, Waubun still had a big play offensively for the winning touchdown, which came in the form of a 50-yard touchdown run by running back Tyler Voss.
But other than that one big play by the highly-potent Bomber offense, the rest of the game belonged to the defense.
"It was a tough game in which we needed to be patient," said Waubun head coach John Clark. "We didn't want to make a mistake and once we were leading in the game, we were comfortable our defense was going to hold out for the win."
The Vikings were able to make plays, move the chains and move the ball, but once the Waubun defense bent, it didn't break.
The wake-up call came on Littlefork-Big Falls' first possession of the game, which was set up after the Viking defense stopped the Bombers on fourth and inches.
The Vikings drove the 50 yards and capped the series on a three-yard TD run by Ian Klemetson for the 6-0 lead.
It was the first time Waubun gave up a score on the first drive and one of the very few times the Bombers even trailed in a game, but instead of panic, the Vikings' score rallied the players.
"The team defense after that first drive was tremendous," Clark said. "It fired the kids up."
On the ensuing drive, the Bombers were forced into another fourth down situation, which this time was successful and ended on an 11-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Dustin Spaeth to receiver Josh Kemper.
Both teams failed on extra-points, leaving the score at 6-6 at halftime.
Besides the touchdown catch, Kemper's other big contribution came in the punting game. Kemper's punts kept the Vikings at bay and forced them to drive a long field, which in a defensive battle, is crucial.
"Josh Kemper's punting was outstanding," Clark said. "The opponent could only return one punt the entire game, and that was key in the second half."
The Vikings' forte is ball-control, and that was no more apparent than in the second half. The Bombers had only four possessions in the third and fourth quarters, but the Waubun defense made sure Littlefork-Big Falls' offense only made it so far.
"They could drive the ball between the 30's, but once they got there, our defense really stiffened," Clark said.
But the big break finally came for the Bombers in the third quarter, when Voss broke through the front line of the Vikings and used his fifth gear for the 50-yard TD run.
The point-after conversion run failed again, leaving Waubun with a precarious 12-6 lead.
There was one scary moment for Waubun in the fourth quarter, when a Viking wide receiver broke free down the field, but the pass was overthrown.
"We were able to go into clock-killing mode and the defense kept playing strong," Clark said.
The Vikings were averaging 36 points a game heading into the state quarterfinal tilt, so the Waubun defense came up big.
"It was a total team effort," Clark said. "Although the stats for the game favored the Vikings, the Bombers were able to make the plays when they had to."
The Bombers will now travel to the warm comforts of the Metrodome in Minneapolis, where they will face undefeated Wheaton Friday at 8 a.m.
Wheaton employs two power running backs in junior Luke Schmitz (785 rushing yards and 10 TDs) and senior Riley Doschadis (723 yards, 10 TDs).
Quarterback Sam Thielen has also rushed for 839 yards and 14 TDs.
The Warriors are 12-0 and finished as the No. 3 state ranked team, while averaging wins of 36-11.
The big advantage the Warriors will have over Waubun is they played to the State Championship before losing to Stephen-Argyle, which hasn't lost a game since 2002, winning 65 games in a row.
"It's an advantage Wheaton has over us, because they have played in the Metrodome twice last year and the majority of my guys have never even been in the Metrodome," Clark said. "Plus, Wheaton experienced twice playing at 8 a.m. in the morning. We have been practicing all week at 6 a.m. to help the players feel the contact that early in the morning."
A quick start against the Vikings will be key for the Bombers, and they have the weapons to break a long TD or two.
Waubun has outscored its opponents by an average of 34-12, while having a bevy of backs who can go all the way.
Floyd DeGroat leads the Bombers with 1,041 yards and 10 TDs, while Voss has 861 yards and 16 TDs.
The foursome of DeGroat, Voss, Clifford Warren and Anthony Mertens have combined to rush for 2,896 yards, while the team has rushed for 4,252 yards and put up 374 points --?both school records.
"Wheaton also has a high-powered offense, and we hope to apply the bend-but-don't-break defense again," Clark said. "With our team speed on defense, we hope that will make a big difference in the game."
The other state semifinal game has Stephen-Argyle (11-0) facing Verndale (10-1).
The state championship will be Friday, Nov. 23, inside the Metrodome, starting at 8 a.m.
State 9-Man football quarterfinals at Duluth's Public School Stadium, Friday, Nov. 9: Waubun vs. Littlefork-Big Falls.
Bombers 6 0 6 0 - 12
Vikings 6 0 0 0 - 6
Lf: Ian Klemetson 3-yard run; run failed.
W: Josh Kemper 11-yard pass from Dustin Spaeth; kick failed.
W: Tyler Voss 50-yard run; run failed.
Waubun individual stats
Rushing (att-yds): Tyler Voss 6-75, Sam Warren 12-26, Anthony Mertens 6-17, Floyd DeGroat 4-15, Dustin Spaeth 3-7.
Passing (comp-att-yds-td-int): Spaeth 4-5-38-1-1.
Receiving (rec-yds): Voss 3-27, Josh Kemper 1-11.