This story was originally published in a 1996 edition of the Northfield News and has been slightly edited for length.
Northfield’s 27-0 win over Mahtomedi in the Class A semifinals showed what an irresistible force the Raiders’ overall game has become.
Northfield was, if not exactly dominated, at least matched through most of the first half by a solid Zephyr’s passing game and defense.
Halftime totals had Mahtomedi with 72 yards, including 56 through the air, to Northfield’s 56 total yards.
But the Raiders were, in order, opportunistic, then dominating.
Midway through the second quarter, Raider defensive back Andrew Herzberg sacked Zephyr punter Ryan Tauer after a bad punt sailed over Tauer’s head deep in Mahtomedi territory. The play set up Northfield’s first score — Jay Larsen’s one-yard touchdown run, his first of three — with 6:03 left in the first half.
From then on, the Raiders were powerful enough to shut down a Mahtomedi offense that boasted a large and talented offensive line. From then on, the Raiders were powerful enough to shut down a Mahtomedi offense that boasted a large and talented offensive line.
By the third quarter, it was obvious which was the better football team.
“We wore them out,” Raider coach Bubba Sullivan said. “What helped was being able to shuttle more guys in and out. We were in great shape, and it showed. I think our in-season weight training program really showed as well.”
Still, the key stretch of the ballgame was the botched punt, followed a missed opportunity from Mahtomedi at the very end of the first half. Zephyr quarterback Nick Dettinger was marching his team deep into Raider territory, threatening Northfield’s 7-0 lead.
After converting on third down with a eight-yard completion to receiver Jason Irsfeld, Mahtomedi had a first down at the Raider eight-yard line with 11 seconds remaining — enough time to run two plays.
But Raider defensive back Frank Huebner broke up Dettinger’s pass to Tauer on the next play, putting Mahtomedi into a second-and-goal situation with seven seconds left and no timeouts.
The Zephyrs elected to try a 25-yard field goal, on which kicker Doug Collins was off by a few feet. Time expired in the first half, and Mahtomedi had nothing to show for a solid offensive effort.
“Without any timeouts, I didn’t want to risk running out the clock,” Mahtomedi coach Wally Malmstrom said. “I thought if we got a field goal, and only trailed 7-3 at the half, we could have maybe pulled out a 10-7 win because Northfield had trouble moving the ball on us in the first half. It was rough, not coming away with any points.”
Northfield seized the momentum from that turn of events. If the Zephyrs effectively withstood a flood in the first half, they were washed-over by maroon and gold in the last half of the game.
The second NHS scoring drive covered 73 yards and chewed up over four minutes of the third quarter. Quarterback Jason Holm keyed the drive, first passing to Hans Bengston for a big 33-yard gain and then rushing twice, setting up Larsen’s five-yard dive off-tackle, which, coupled with Christian White’s PAT kick, gave NHS a 14-point lead.
Holm carried for 53 of his 55 yards in the second half. On the night, Holm completed three of seven passes for 30 yards and one inconsequential interception.
After Northfield went up 20-0 on Larsen’s final touchdown run with 4:17 remaining, the Raiders sealed their trip to Prep Bowl XV with two key plays.
The first came on an interception from Nate Olsen on Dettinger’s second pass attempt following the previous Raider touchdown and gave NHS the ball on the Mahtomedi 32-yard line.
The second was Holm’s 26-yard option keeper, which gave Northfield a first down on the 16-yard line after consecutive penalties pushed them all the way back to the 42. Four plays later, Bart Wiese rounded out the scoring by diving over from one yard out.
“It was a great game for us,” Sullivan said. “We really did a great job, and they only had that one drive late in the first half, which we helped them out by committing some penalties.”Reach Sports Editor Michael Hughes at 645-1106 or follow him on Twitter @NFNewsSports. © Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.