One would be hard-pressed to find a more enigmatic team in the Big Southeast District than New Prague.
One week the Trojans are going toe-to-toe with Rochester Mayo and nearly beating state-ranked Mankato West, and then they are losing by multiple touchdowns to struggling Rochester John Marshall.
And then, there was Friday.
After trading blows with the No. 10-ranked Panthers for three quarters and spoiling a prime opportunity to snag the lead by coming up empty inside the CHS 10-yard line, the Trojans set up shop at their on 37 with 3 minutes, 42 seconds on the clock after Century turned the ball over on downs for the third time in the game.
Buoyed by a conversion on 3rd-and-long on a broken play, Jay Skogerboe fell into the end zone after a 7-yard pass from Parker Johnson with 7.7 seconds on the clock to score the game-winning touchdown.
With the haunting memories of its loss to the Scarlets on a last-second Hail Mary still fresh in its mind from two weeks prior, New Prague remained disciplined on defense and gleefully danced off its home turf after Century’s pass fell harmlessly to the ground on the final play of the game.
Though almost every team has at least one game that could have gone either way and completely flipped its record, the Trojans are painfully close to being in the mix for a home playoff game had they been able sustain their multiple-touchdown lead late in the third quarter against Mayo and swatted Mankato West’s last-second Hail Mary. Heck, it’s possible if they had another shot against Rochester John Marshall they’d win by two touchdowns instead of the other way around and be could be sitting at 5-1.
But that’s not how football, or sports in general, works. You are what your record says you are, and New Prague is 2-4 with a pair of very winnable games remaining against Albert Lea and Northfield remaining on the schedule.
Johnson finished 14-for-28 for 224 yards and three touchdowns against the Panthers. In his last three games, the left-handed signal-caller has 735 yards and five touchdowns.
Century (4-2 overall, 3-2 Red Division), meanwhile, completely falls out of the sub-district championship race and now finds its margin for error razor thin in terms of securing an opening-round bye for the Section 1-5A tournament. Entering the condensed final two weeks of the regular season, the all-important second seed appears to be a two-horse race between the Panthers and Rochester Mayo, who just-so happened to meet on Wednesday, Oct. 16 on the hill at Century High School.
Speaking of the Spartans, they didn’t necessarily play their best game against crosstown rival, Rochester John Marshall, but managed to cobble together enough offense to pull off a 24-14 victory in a game the Spartans led 17-0 at halftime.
Eighth grader — yes, eighth grader — Carter Holcomb caught two touchdown passes in the first half and finished with seven receptions for 62 yards. Cade Sheehan was picked off once, but managed surpass 200 passing yards for the fourth consecutive week and now has more than 1,300 yards to go with 14 touchdowns and eight picks on the season.
If the Spartans (4-2, 3-2) can pull off the upset against undefeated Winona on Friday and beat Century in Week 8, they will easily be looking at a No. 2 seed for the section tournament. A split in the final two games complicates things, especially considering there is no guarantees as to how Century will perform in Week 7 against Byron.
The final two teams in the Section 1-5A field continued to struggle as Austin extended its losing streak to four games with a 42-13 setback to Class 4A Byron while Northfield remained winless with a 31-7 loss to the Winhawks.
The Packers (2-4, 2-2) scored first against the Bears on an interception return by Oliver Andersen, but couldn’t sustain the momentum and watched as Byron (3-3) rolled up six unanswered touchdowns — three of which came in the opening quarter — in a blowout loss.
Winona had some issues pulling away against the rebuilding Raiders, but managed to keep its perfect record intact by steadily building on its 16-0 halftime lead. The Winhawks (6-0, 5-0), who have already wrapped up the Blue Division title, struggled to gain a consistent offensive rhythm due in large part to injuries as the school’s all-time leader rusher, Trevor Pomeroy, did not play and top receiver, Dayne Gamoke, missed most of the game after getting hurt in the first half.
Owatonna’s Week 7 opponent, Mankato East, continued to take care of business against struggling opponents and pulled off its second consecutive one-sided victory, beating Faribault, 43-12. The victory moves the Cougars to 4-2 overall and extends their winning streak to three games. East, which is an upset loss against Austin away from being 5-1, will be a decent test on Friday night for the top-ranked Huskies. The Cougars are averaging 37 points per game in their four victories and handed a strong Kasson-Mantorville one of its two losses of the season in Week 1.
The Komets (4-2, 2-2) continued their string of high-level play over the last month and picked up their fourth win in five weeks by beating Albert Lea, 38-22. Kasson-Mantorville’s only setback in the span was a 34-24 loss to Winona in Week 4.