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Brian Wierima / Forum Communications Co., Published October 27 2012

Lakers roll to playoff victory

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. – Despite Detroit Lakes junior quarterback Michael Herzog’s 33 rushing attempts for 249 yards, it was his lone completion of the game that aided the Lakers’ ground game in a 34-8 victory against No. 4-seeded Thief River Falls in the Minnesota Class 4A, Section 8 football semifinals Saturday.

Herzog paced the Class 4A No. 3-ranked Lakers (9-0) with his usual hard-nosed rushing style, but it was his 41-yard touchdown strike to senior slotback Stephen Erb that planted the seeds of doubt in the Prowlers’ defensive minds.

“They had eight in the box on the play, and we were practicing all week on going over the top on them,” said Herzog, who went 1-for-7 for 41 yards and a TD through the air. “It affected their defense after that play, because their cornerbacks were creeping in for run support before that.”

The pass, which came on DL’s fourth play from scrimmage, was actually tipped by a Prowlers secondary player and went right to Erb for the touchdown.

Erb also rushed for another score late in the second quarter on a fourth-and-goal from the 3, which gave DL momentum and a 20-8 halftime lead.

“The ball just tipped off his hand, hit my helmet and I just tracked ’er down,” Erb said of the touchdown. “Mike throws the ball well and he has faith in his receivers to go up and get it.”

TRF’s game plan was to load up on the run, but after Herzog’s touchdown strike early in the game, it kept them guessing. That was despite Herzog usually pulling the ball back in during the veer and picking up positive yardage.

The Lakers still owned the Prowlers in the rushing game, gaining 369 yards on 56 carries.

“We just tried and loosen them up early with the pass because they were loading up on the run so much,” said DL head coach Flint Motschenbacher. “It served its purpose.”

Another common denominator in the Lakers’ undefeated season was strong defense.

Once again, that was the case, as the Prowlers rushing attack was non-existent. TRF managed just 73 yards on the ground.

The Lakers owned the middle, as TRF running back Ian Lund persistently tried to run between the tackles, but he was stuffed for eight yards on 14 carries in the game.

“The whole unit once again played solid,” Motschenbacher said of his defense. “It was good team defense, led by some good players.”

Erb made his presence felt at free safety, as well, with two interceptions. The Lakers senior was moved to free safety a couple of weeks ago, because of his speed and athleticism.

He leads the team with six interceptions on the season.

“The linebackers are pretty darn good on our defense,” Erb said. “I don’t have to worry about anyone coming towards me in the secondary, because they clean things up pretty well.”

The Lakers advance to the section championship against Rocori, which defeated Fergus Falls in the other semifinal match-up.

The title game will be held at the Fargodome at 8 p.m. Thursday.

“I am just proud of these kids. Every single one of these kids have worked hard all season,” Motschenbacher said. “They have reached all their goals, besides one, and that’s to win the section championship.”

TRF 0 8 0 0– 8

DL 12 8 14 0–34

DL–Erb 41 pass from Herzog (kick failed)

DL–Herzog 1 run (pass failed)

TRF–Johnson 22 pass from Hoffard (Finseth pass from Hoffard)

DL–Erb 4 run (Herzog run)

DL–Herzog 2 run (Tigges kick)

DL–Herzog 32 run (Tigges kick)

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING: DL, Herzog 33-249, Nosal 7-45, Erb 7-35, Hedstrom 2-16, Dahring 3-8, Gailfus 2-8, Schelske 2-8. TRF, Brown 7-51, Holecek 3-12, Lund 14-8, Kuznia 1-8, Kruse 1-2, Johnson 2-(minus-2), Hoffard 1-(minus-6).

PASSING: DL, Herzog 1-7-1 41 yards. TRF, Hoffard 7-12-1 91, Lund 0-1-0 0, Kruse 0-1-1 0.

RECEIVING: DL, Erb 1-41.

Wierima writes for the Detroit Lakes Tribune