For about two minutes, there was a flicker of optimism that drifted through the New Prague sideline.
And then Owatonna did what it always does: Extinguish the flame of hope.
Biting back after the Trojans nipped at their heels late in the first quarter, the top-ranked Huskies rang up five unanswered touchdowns — four of which came in the second quarter alone — and sailed to another one-sided victory on Friday night in a Big Southeast District Red Division game at the OHS stadium.
The 56-13 blowout elevates the Huskies to 3-0 with the average score in those games being 54-6. On paper, Owatonna looks like it could be tested next Friday when they hit the road to play fellow undefeated Rochester Mayo, but that’s far from a guarantee. The Huskies’ starters have yielded less than 50 rushing yards in roughly seven quarters of play and have allowed just one team to penetrate the red zone, and that was on Friday night when the Trojans took exactly five snaps inside the Owatonna 20 before turning the ball over on downs.
Two possessions later, Ethan Walter took a short pass and zipped into the end zone to help give the Huskies a 21-0 lead with 46 seconds left in the first quarter.
And then, something happened. It wasn’t seismic — and there’s a good chance few people will remember the play in the grand scheme of the season — but New Prague took over at its own 37 yard line and ran a well-organized play that ended with Billy Geis striding free behind the defense for a 63-yard touchdown after snaring a pass from Parker Johnson.
“We weren’t expecting New Prague to get a huge play on us,” Owatonna senior defensive back, Isaac Oppegard, said. “We have been playing pretty good defense the whole season and they had an open release to the tight end for a touchdown and after that we just focused and continued to make plays.”
The Huskies’ first-team unit buckled down after the Geis touchdown and allowed just 32 total yards over the next 15 minutes of game action before taking a seat for good at the 8:30-mark of the third quarter. The Trojans finished with negative-6 rushing yards against Owatonna’s starters and, despite gaining 148 yards through the air, completed just 8-for-25 passes.
Owatonna, meanwhile, had little trouble punching holes through the Trojans’ defense, piling up 488 yards of total offense, 359 of which came on the ground.
Spelling the injured Zach Stransky for the second consecutive game, preseason No. 2 tailback, Tanner Hall, continued to take advantage of his extended role, leading the team with 164 rushing yards on 15 carries, averaging 15.7 yards during a 10-carry stretch in the second quarter. He popped off runs of 48 and 37 yards and scored back-to-back touchdowns in a four-minute span in the second quarter.
“Now that we are running a lot of zone (blocking) stuff, it really highlights the shiftiness and the vision of a kid like Tanner Hall,” Owatonna coach Jeff Williams said. “He had a really nice night. The holes were there and the beautiful this about the zone is that sometimes the holes are on the back side; you start right, and then cut left and boom. He did a nice job of that.”
Brayden Truelson continued to light up the Big Southeast District with another productive and efficient night, completing 5 of 10 passes for 118 yards and three touchdowns. The junior added 3-yard a rushing score to blow the game open at 34-6 with 8 minutes, 45 seconds left in the second quarter.
Through three games, Truelson has completed 25 of 37 passes for 429 yards and five touchdowns. He has yet to take a snap in the fourth quarter of any game all season and has rested the entire second half of the previous two contests.
“The line really pries open those holes for those running backs, no matter who is out there,” Truelson said moments after the game. “It just makes the passing game that much easier with the play-action.”
Truelson has also done a commendable job of spreading the ball to his deep stable of receivers, keeping each one happy without forcing anything and remaining poised in the pocket. On Friday, it was Matt Williams’ turn to light up the defense as the senior finished with a team-high 54 yards on three receptions, scoring the team’s second touchdown on an 11-yard toss before adding receptions of 13 and 30 yards. He turned in the highlight grab of the night when he latched onto a high-arching pass down the left sideline with the defender draped all over him.
“Matt had a good night,” said coach Williams. “He does have very, very good hands, so if you get it out in the general vicinity, he is probably going to come down with it. But what I like about Truelson is that he doesn’t lock onto anybody. He goes through his read-progressions. And the way things were schemed tonight, it was more of a Matt Williams night than it was maybe Oppegard or Beyer night.”
Ethan Walter busted loose for a 49-yard run on the first play from scrimmage and finished with 89 yards of total offense to go with one receiving touchdown, giving his a team-high five TDs (three receiving, two rushing) on the season.
Isaac Gefre got the party started for the Huskies with a 20-yard touchdown run on the second play of the game before Truelson flung back-to-back touchdown passes — one to Williams and one to Walter — to make it 21-0.
After the Trojans scored to draw within two touchdowns, Carson DeKam hauled in a 20-yard TD pass from Truelson on the ensuing possession. Owatonna scored on its next three drives before the half to grab a 49-6 lead heading into the locker room.
Jerez Autridge put together another great rushing performance in the second half and finished with 78 yards on 12 carries, finding the end zone from 24 yards out in the third quarter.
Ethan Rohman and Payton Beyer each picked off one pass. Isaac Gefre led the defense with seven tackles and one sack.
Owatonna 56, New Prague 13
O—Isaac Gefre 20 run (Sam Henson kick), 11:20, 7-0
Drive summary: 2 plays, 69 yards
O—Matt Williams 11 pass from Brayden Truelson (Henson kick), 8:06, 14-0
Drive summary: 3 plays, 9 yards
O—Ethan Walter 13 pass from Truelson (Henson kick), 0:46, 21-0
Drive summary: 6 plays, 26 yards
NP—Bill Geis 63 pass from Parker Johnson (kick fail), 0:26, 21-6
Drive summary: 1 play, 63 yards
O—Carson DeKam 21 pass from Truelson (Henson kick), 10:47, 28-6
Drive summary: 4 plays, 79 yards
O—Truelson 3 run (Henson kick), 8:45, 35-6
Drive summary: 6 plays, 66 yards
O—Hall 10 run (Henson kick), 6:42, 42-6
Drive summary: 2 plays, 40 yards
O—Hall 6 run (Henson kick), 3:02, 49-6
Drive summary: 5 plays, 65 yards
O—Jerez Autridge 26 run (Henson kick), 6:13, 56-6
Drive summary: 5 plays, 40 yards
NP— Kurt Chlan 4 run (kick good), 1:57, 56-13
Drive summary: 9 plays, 80 yards
Owatonna individual stats
RUSHING—Ethan Walter 1-49, Logan Gauthier 4 (-5), Brayden Truelson 4-18-1, Taylor Bogen 2-0, Abe Stockwell 2-5, Jerez Autridge 12-78-1, Tanner Hall 15-164-2, Nick Williams 1-5, Isaac Gefre 1-20-1, Dylan Maas 3-25
PASSING—Sol Havelka 3-3-45-0-0, Brayden Truelson 5-10-84-3-1
RECEIVING—Matt Williams 3-54-1, Isaac Oppegard 1-7, Ethan Walter 2-40-1, Carson DeKam 1-20-1, Connor Budach 1-8
TACKLES—Matt Williams 1, Isaac Oppegard 2, Payton Beyer 2 (INT), Ethan Walter 2, Jaden Dalenbach 2, Grant Achterkirch 3, Carson DeKam 1, Keenan Young 6, Jack Tichenal 2, Connor Budach 3, Matt Seykora 3, Tanner Hall 1, Hunter Menden 5, Isaac Gefre 7 (1 sack), Dylan Maas 1, Cole Earles 2, Dalten Wincell 2, Hudson Aase 1, Ethan Rohman 4 (INT), Gavin Rein 1, Lane Wagner 1, Brandon Skala 1, Josh O’Daffer 1