LP-A nabs No. 1 seed
There was a nice little prize waiting for the Lake Park-Audubon football team if they were successful in defeating Fosston in their regular season finale inside the Fargodome Wednesday.
Through an effective, balanced offense and some hard-nosed defense, the Raiders laid claim to that prize with a convincing 34-6 victory, thus earning LP-A the No. 1 seed in the upcoming Section 6-1A playoffs.
The Raiders open up the playoffs by hosting No. 8 Cass Lake-Bena Tuesday at 7 p.m. LP-A defeated CL-B 44-6 earlier this season.
Earning the No. 1 seed in the playoffs wasn't as much about bragging rights, but about possible matchups along the way for the Raiders.
"I feel it's pretty huge getting that top seed," said LP-A head coach Jed Swegarden. "To be flat honest, if we would have lost, we would have been playing in Mahnomen's bracket. We want to play Mahnomen here in the Dome, not in the slop and the mud.
"There's a long way to go to do that for both teams, but it's still nice to have that top seed."
The Raiders lost to Mahnomen 16-14 on an Anthony Lavoy 44-yard field goal earlier this season. Swegarden noted due to Mahnomen's size advantage, winning would be a much more difficult task in the outdoor elements than in the Fargodome, which is the site for the Section 6-1A championship game.
"We can at least use our speed on the carpet here," Swegarden said.
But Swegarden and the Raiders know it's difficult to win in the playoffs, and they will take the route of "one game at a time."
But one thing LP-A can use heading into the playoffs is momentum, which was provided by the win over Fosston.
As has been par all season, the Raiders relied on their defense to ignite a spark, and that was provided by secondary player Jesse Wixo midway through the second quarter.
With the Greyhounds driving for a potential tying score, marching the ball down to the Raider 23 yard line, Fosston quarterback Jake Juve threw a fourth and three pass down the seam.
Instead of the ball finding its mark, Wixo jumped in front of the intended receiver, then ran it back 42 yards to the Fosston 45.
"I was just standing there covering my guy and the ball came to me, so I just caught it and ran down the field," Wixo said. "That provided a lot of momentum for us."
Already leading 13-6, LP-A used its balanced attack to strike a big blow to the Greyhounds' chances.
After an eight-yard rush by running back Kenyon O'Brien, Wixo finished what he started, running a post route down the right sideline, as quarterback Brian Gordon hit him in stride for the 39-yard touchdown strike.
"That was huge scoring right after the interception, that really pumped us up the rest of the game," O'Brien said.
O'Brien added the two-point conversion run for the 21-6 advantage, which held until halftime.
Fosston started the game filling the box with eight players, allowing Gordon to find his perimeter receivers.
The LP-A quarterback did just that, picking up important first downs throughout the second and third quarters, while finishing with 117 yards on six completions for an average of 19.5 yards per completion.
It was that effective passing which loosened up Fosston's rushing defense, and that's where O'Brien started gashing the defense for some big pickups.
"Our passing game opened up our rushing game," Swegarden said. "(Gordon) was throwing the ball through the cover two allies and finding his receivers."
LP-A almost put the lid on the game with a 12-play, 66-yard drive to start the third quarter, ending on an O'Brien 18-yard touchdown run on fourth and four, on a pitch play around left end.
The Derek Braseth kick put LP-A up 28-6 with only 5:55 left in the third quarter.
"That drive to start the third quarter really solidified it for us," Swegarden said.
Fosston ran only four plays -- a three and out -- the entire third quarter, as the Raiders started another long, turf-eating drive -- this one a 10-play, 62-yard march.
A 25-yard pass to tight end Caleb Lunde on third and 13 to the Fosston five took the rest of the air out of the Greyhounds' sails.
The drive was capped on a slant pass to Wixo from six yards out, for his second TD of the game.
O'Brien paced the Raiders with 137 rushing yards on 20 carries, including a one-yard run for LP-A's second score.
Gordon had 117 yards on a 6-10 day, along with three touchdown passes -- two to Wixo, and the Raiders' first touchdown on a 31-yarder to Zach Downs.
"We weren't getting many yards on the ground, so we made some adjustments and started going up and over the top," Swegarden said. "Throwing to a pair of wide receivers who are 6-4 and 6-5, and athletic, is always a good match up."
Fosston scored in their opening drive, on a 47-yard pass from Juve to Steven Lyseng.
All focus was on Fosston and the Dome Wednesday, said O'Brien.
"We just had to win this game, because we needed that No. 1 seed," the shifty running back said. "The defense has been key all year for us, too, and we relied on them all season."
LP-A's defense shut down Fosston's offense, keeping the Greyhounds to just two first downs in the first three quarters and giving the Raiders a big advantage in time of possession and field position, as well.
If the Raiders win Tuesday, they will face the winner of a match-up between No. 4 Osakis and No. 5 Pillager.
The bottom bracket pits No. 3 Mahnomen versus No. 6 Parkers Prairie, and No. 2 Browerville goes against No. 7 New York Mills.
Lake Park-Audubon vs. Fosston, at the FargoDome, Wednesday, Oct. 15.
Fosston 6 0 0 0- 6
LPA 13 8 7 6-34
F-Lyseng 47 pass from Juve (run failed)
LPA-Downs 31 pass from Gordon (Braseth kick)
LPA-O'Brien 1 run (run failed)
LPA-Wixo 39 pass from Gordon (O'Brien run)
LPA-O'Brien 18 run (Braseth kick)
LPA-Wixo 6 pass from Gordon (kick blocked)
RUSHING: F, Sander 16-53, Goss 9-25, Johnson 3-19, J. Juve 10-16, A. Juve 4-12, Lyseng 1-3. LPA, O'Brien 20-137, Gordon 7-30, Nelson 5-22, Hanson 6-18, Zeller 1-(minus 1), Tougas 1-(minus 2).
PASSING: F, J. Juve 1-6-1 47 yards. LPA, Gordon 6-10-1 117.
RECEIVING: F, Lyseng 1-47. LPA, Wixo 3-61, Downs 2-49, Lunde 1-25.