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Chris Murphy, Published November 09 2013

New London-Spicer knocks out D-G-F football in the Class 3A quarterfinals

ST. CLOUD, Minn. – The running Rebels football team will have to wait until next season to run again.

Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton fell to New London-Spicer 56-30 Saturday in the Minnesota Class 3A state quarterfinals at Husky Stadium on the campus of St. Cloud State.

“Play calling, we lost a couple of key guys in the first half. There’s a bunch of things,” D-G-F coach Tony Soderberg said. “We made mistakes, didn’t execute and they did.”

There was no dancing around what New London-Spicer and Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton do. Both teams run the football. Wildcats running back Adam Essler did plenty of running Saturday, rushing for 297 yards and three touchdowns on 31 carries.

“There’s nothing like it,” Essler said. “The atmosphere is great, and you’re playing with your teammates. We came out firing in the second half. In the first half, we were kind of slow. We hit them hard, and we took advantage of our opportunities.”

Trailing 24-16, Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton (8-3) went for it on fourth-and-1 on its own 21-yard line on the opening drive of the second half. New London-Spicer stuffed the Rebels, and Essler went 21 yards on the next play to extend the lead to 32-16. The Rebels punted on the ensuing possession, and Essler went 88 yards on the next play from scrimmage to make it a 38-16 game. The Rebels wouldn’t get within 16 from there.

“I thought we really were wearing them down,” New London-Spicer coach Dan Essler said. “In the locker room, we told the kids that we were wearing them down, and we had to just keep running at them.”

D-G-F running back Chad Johnson had 62 yards on eight carries in the first half, but could only muster 32 yards on 14 carries in the second half.

“We made some adjustments defensively to stop the run,” Dan Essler said. “We took our outside guy and slammed him into the hole and the cutback lane wasn’t open for (Chad) Johnson anymore, and that was the difference on their plan.”

New London-Spicer struck first, capping a nine-play, 56-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run for Adam Essler late in the first. D-G-F answered right back, using five plays to go 71 yards, five of which came on Chad Johnson’s touchdown run.

On the ensuing drive, New London-Spicer sent Adam Essler in motion, which left Brett Olson wide open for the 4-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Vraa. D-G-F answered again, on a 3-yard touchdown run for Joe Flatt and Johnson added the 2-point conversion.

The Adam Essler trickery worked again on fourth-and-3 from the D-G-F 4-yard line and 9 seconds left in the half. This time, Ethan Bohlsen was wide open for Vraa’s throw. Vraa found Jarrett Hatlestad for the 2-point conversion and the Wildcats took a 24-16 lead and momentum into half.

“They worry about him a little too much and we capitalized,” Dan Essler said. “Our passing game opened up our run game. After we got a couple passing plays, they had to keep two guys outside the box, and that opened up our running game.”

Adam Essler wasn’t sure whether the run game helped the pass game or vice versa. Either way, it ended up with 56 points on a D-G-F defense that hadn’t given up more than 28 all season.

“Our running game and passing game totally complement each other,” Adam Essler said. “We have so many weapons that you can’t key on one guy, and if you do, we’ll make you pay. It’s both run and pass that keeps us going.”

The season ended for a D-G-F team, which went from a 2-7 team last season to an 8-3 section title team. Soderberg hopes to build from there.

“It didn’t seem like there were juniors, seniors or sophomores,” Soderberg said. “It was just one team. That made us be what we were. That’s all on the shoulders and the decisions the seniors made daily. I told them I love them, and this is what life is about. It’s about beginning and ending new things.”

D 8 8 6 8–30

N 8 16 14 18–56

N-Essler 1 run (Essler run)

D-Johnson 5 run (Johnson run)

N-Olson 4 pass from Vraa (Zylstra pass from Vraa)

D-Flatt 3 run (Johnson run)

N-Bohlsen 4 pass from Vraa (Hatlestad pass from Vraa)

N-Essler 21 run (Zylstra pass from Vraa)

N-Essler 21 run (pass failed)

D-Johnson 7 run (pass failed)

N-Zylstra 20 pass from Vraa (run failed)

N-Austvold 12 run (run failed)

D-Flatt 1 run (Johns run)

N-Beuning 4 run (run failed)

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING: D, Johnson 22-94, Wayne 5-(-1), Flatt 13-89, Nelson 2-0. N, Essler 31-297, Beuning 5-27, Hatlestad 6-49, Austvold 5-36.

PASSING: D, Nelson 8-14-0 179 yards. N, Vraa 7-11-0 62 yards.

RECEIVING: N, Hatlestad 1-11, Olson 1-4, Zylstra 3-39, Essler 1-4, Bohlsen 1-4. D, Fuchs 1-33, Johnson 3-92, Matthews 1-20, Flatt 1-7, Berggren 2-27.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Chris Murphy at (701) 241-5548