Prep football: Aquinas runs past Northwestern in playoff win
The Tigers drove down inside the Blugolds 1-yard line twice in the first half, but failed to come away with a touchdown either time.
MAPLE — Northwestern prepared all week for the aerial attack of Aquinas’s Jackson Flottmeyer, but it was four rushing touchdowns from senior Calvin Hargrove that sealed a 36-16 win for the Blugolds in the Wisconsin Division 5 Level 2 playoff game Friday.
Hargrove rushed 10 times for 82 yards and as a team, the Blugolds amassed nearly 300 yards on the ground. By contrast, Flottmeyer, who averaged more than 200 yards passing per game this season, finished 5-for-6 for just 83 yards.
“We need to run the football at this time of year and we haven’t shown it a lot,” Aquinas coach Tom Lee said. “Last season, we really started pounding the ball in the playoffs and we saw this coming a little bit in the last couple weeks of practice. We talked to our guys up front that they have to bully them and we played bully ball.”
Northwestern took the opening kick and drove 80 yards for a 3-yard touchdown run by Tanner Kaufman and took more than 8 minutes off the clock.
After back-to-back Hargrove touchdowns to put the Tigers in a 14-6 hole, Northwestern quarterback Luke Sedin led another long drive to inside the Blugold 1-yard line.
The Blugolds forced a turnover on downs, but a bad snap into the end zone led to an intentional grounding penalty by Hargrove and a safety.
After the free kick, Sedin found Reid Kreuser behind the Aquinas safeties for a 40-yard touchdown strike and after the two-point conversion, Northwestern led 16-14.
“I just saw (Kreuser) break free and I’m like ‘He’s open,’” Sedin said. “If I throw it out there, he'll get out there under it.”
After an Aquinas fumble, the Tigers drove down inside the Blugold 1 again, only to be stopped four consecutive times and turn the ball over on downs again. Instead of going in at halftime up by eight or more, Northwestern was clinging to a two-point lead.
“Obviously, not scoring before half was huge,” Tiger coach Jovin Kroll said. “Not having our timeouts there didn’t allow us to run the ball on first through third down without the clock running out.”
Even worse, 6 foot, 6 inch tight end Trevor Eliason injured his foot on the drive and was not able to return to the game.
In the second half, the Aquinas offensive line continued to open holes for Hargrove and Collin Conzemius.
“We try to start 22 kids,” Lee said. “When your linemen don’t have to play both sides of the ball, that makes a big difference when you start leaning on guys. That’s the hardest thing in the world is to play defensive line when you get guys leaning on you and then if you have to go out and play offense, that’s tough.”
As the Aquinas lead stretched in the second half, the Tigers were forced into obvious passing situations, which led to a couple of Sedin interceptions.
“What they were able to do was control the line of scrimmage and, ultimately, in any football game we all know that makes the difference,” Kroll said. “We did everything we could to keep the ball away from them, but they made plays, they were a little quicker and they out-physicaled us.”
The Tigers end the season with their second straight Heart O’ North Conference championship and even though they will have significant losses to graduation, they are going to continue to work toward a state title.
“Winning a conference title is nothing to be upset about and, in the end, this only ends great for one team,” Kroll said. “We’re going to keep punching and one of these years, we hope it’s going to be us. The kids put in the work, they care about each other. This means so much to so many people, that’s why it hurts so much to lose. You have to overcome the feeling like you let people down, you didn’t make it to where you expected to be, but it’s not like we fell to an inferior opponent.”