ROCHESTER — Mike Tyson once said that everyone has a game plan until they get punched in the mouth.
Well, the top-ranked Owatonna football team took one on the chin early on and proceeded to absorb its share of jabs and body-blows for the better part of the next three quarters, but ultimately stood tall at the end of a gritty, and sometimes ugly, 31-14, victory on over No. 9-ranked Rochester Mayo on Friday night in Big Southeast District action.
Huskies’ long-time head coach, Jeff Williams, said he’s going to take the wait-and-see approach as to whether or not the adversity will be transformed into a positive experience for his team that had severely out-muscled its first three opponents entering the Week 4 showdown.
“It depends,” he said roughly 10 minutes after the game standing on the turf near the south end zone. “It depends on what the demeanor looks like tonight and into next week. Do we understand now that we are mortal? Teams are going to scheme well against us and if we don’t play well, we can be beat.”
The victory was the first time all season that Owatonna’s starters were forced to play deep into the fourth quarter. And though the final score looks somewhat one-sided, the Huskies needed a trio late interceptions to escape Med City with a win.
Keenan Young stepped in front of a Cade Sheehan pass with 8 minutes, 13 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to stunt a Mayo drive with the score 17-14 Huskies. OHS was unable to capitalize on the turnover, and after a fumble deep in the red zone, gave the Spartans a chance to manufacture a game-winning drive with 6:35 shining on the clock.
Payton Beyer, though, had other plans.
Reading Sheehan’s eyes the entire way and shifting into great position in front of a receiver as the Mayo quarterback rolled to his right, Beyer picked off a pass with 6:20 remaining and set up Brayden Truelson’s short touchdown run to make it 24-14 with 5:08 to go.
On the ensuing Spartans’ possession, Beyer intercepted Sheehan once again near the same spot on the field and all-but sealed the victory with 4:41 left.
Beyer — who also had an interception in the first half called back because of a penalty — played a huge part on an Owatonna defense that rebounded from some early adversity to keep the Huskies in the game with a unified and gritty effort against Mayo’s pack of speedy and athletic receivers. Gazing across the line at a Spartans offense that stretched them horizontally with five receivers lined up from sideline to sideline on every play, the Huskies held Sheehan to 21 of 45 (46.6%) passing while intercepting three passes and coming up with a pair of huge sacks, one from Carson DeKam and one from Ethan Rohman.
“It was hard being disciplined the entire game,” Beyer said. “But that’s what we are taught and coached. That’s everything in the summer with 7 on 7 and we work on that every day in practice.”
With the Spartans blitzing and remaining disciplined in their gaps, the typically vaunted Owatonna rushing attack was held in check the entire night. The Huskies gained just 113 yards on 45 carries and were held to two or fewer yards on 18 touches.
Brayden Truelson was also kept uncomfortable for most of the evening, but hit on a few clutch throws that either moved the chains or put the Huskies on the board. His 10-yard touchdown pass to Carson DeKam on fourth down with 8:32 left in the second quarter was a thing of beauty and gave the Huskies a 12-7 advantage.
Owatonna would add to its lead and eventually built a 17-7 halftime advantage after a safety on a botched Mayo snap and a 32-yard field goal by Sam Henson.
Mayo received the ball to start the second half and marched — or more like flew — 80 yards in 13 play and drew within 17-13 when Sheehan found Michael Mankaka for a 3-yard touchdown. Sheehan finished 6-for-7 on the drive and connected for completions of 32 and 28 yards.
The Spartans had their fair share of opportunities to take the lead in the second half, the best of which came when Mankaka dropped what would have been a go-ahead touchdown from 47 yards out early in the fourth quarter.
Both teams struggled mightily in the unseasonably hot on humid conditions and combined for 23 penalties. The sun battered the players in the pregame and the temperature remained in the high-70s even after the sun completely set in the middle the second quarter. Both teams suffered injuries to starting players and dealt with cramps as the game progressed.
“The heat definitely played a factor in the game,” Beyer said. “Cramping was a big thing. All of us in the pregame with the sun out, that was really hot too. It played a big factor for both team I’d say, for sure.”
Isaac Gefre got Owatonna on the board with a 7-yard touchdown at the 2:26-mark of the first quarter while Sol Havelka capped the scoring with a 2-yard scamper through a large gap on the right side deep in the fourth quarter. Truelson pushed forward for a 1-yard touchdown with 5:08 remaining in the game to help give his team a 24-14 advantage.
The victory brings Owatonna’s record to 4-0 overall and 4-0 in the Red Division at the midway point of the season. Barring any major upsets, the Huskies look to be in prime position to earn the top seed in the Section 1-5A tournament as their only game remaining against a team with a current winning record is in on Friday, Oct. 4 at home against Mankato West. The Scarlets needed a last-second Hail Mary just t beat New Prague on Friday, 40-35.
Owatonna 31, Rochester Mayo 14
RM—Asa Cummings 10 pass from Cade Sheehan (kick good), 7:14, 7-0
Drive summary: 5 plays, 20 yards
O—Isaac Gefre 7 run (kick blocked), 2:26, 7-6
Drive summary: 10 plays, 50 yards
O—Carson DeKam 11 pass from Brayden Truelson (pass fail), 8:32, 12-7
Drive summary: 7 plays, 31 yards
O—Safety, 7:30, 14-7
O—Sam Henson 32 field goal, 4:58, 17-7
Drive summary: 7 plays, 30 yards
RM—Michael Mankaka 3 pass from Sheehan (kick good), 17-14
Drive summary: 13 plays, 80 yards
O—Truelson 1 run (Henson kick), 5:08, 24-14
Drive summary: 3 plays, 7 yards
O—Sol Havelka 2 run (Henson kick), 3:45, 31-14
Drive summary: 4 plays, 15 yards
Owatonna individual stats
RUSHING—Ethan Walter 11-23, Sol Havelka 1-8-1, Brayden Truelson 9 (-2)-1, Zach Stransky 4-10, Tanner Hall 15-56, Isaac Gefre 5-18
PASSING—Brayden Truelson 14-20-98-1-0
RECEIVING—Matt Williams 7-51, Isaac Oppegard 1-1, Payton Beyer 3-15, Ethan Walter 2-21, Carson DeKam 1-10-1
TACKLES—Matt William 1, Isaac Oppegard 2, Payton Beyer 3 (2 INT), Ethan Walter 3, Jaden Dallenbach 1, Carson DeKam 2 (sack), Keenan Young 2 (INT), Jack Titchenal 1, Zach Stransky 3, Matt Seykora 2, Hunter Menden 2, Isaac Gefre 5, Cole Earles 1, Dalten Wincell 2, Ethan Rohman 2 (sack), Josh O’Daffer 1