Football: Zumbrota-Mazeppa run over by Triton
DODGE CENTER – Kurt Gadient and the Zumbrota-Mazeppa offense needed to have an efficient game against Triton Wednesday night. With the Cobras featuring an offense that operates with a run first, run second, run third mentality, the Cougars and their quarterback would have to take care of the ball and hit on a couple of big plays.
The highlight-reel plays were there, including a sparkling pitch and catch that ended the first half with a touchdown, but penalties, fumbled snaps and interceptions hampered the Cougars ability to keep pace with the Cobras in a 38-14 loss that ends the regular season for Z-M.
The Cougars got on the board first with a 3-yard run from Jacob Tschann, the final play of a eight-play drive that saw Z-M alternate passes and runs. Gadient hit Ellis Hirman twice for 44 combined yards, Tschann ran twice and both Gadient and Collin Carney had a carry.
But after that drive, the Cougars’ second of the game, Tschann’s role diminished as Gadient took over on offense, throwing 17 times in the first 24 minutes. But it was the Cobras that took over the game, tying the score on their ensuing drive with a 60-yard run from quarterback Zach Otto.
“They’re a running team, and you to come to play when you come to (Dodge Center),” said Z-M head coach Willie Rauen. “I think our kids responded really well. The score wasn’t in our favor, but I was very happy with the way we played tonight.”
The Cobras took the lead following a Gadient interception when Patrick Ramirez capped a nine-play drive with a 7-yard run. Ramirez would extend Triton’s advantage on the Cobras’ next drive, matching the yardage from his first score. Kylo Courteau made it 29-7 Triton when he rumbled two yards with 1 minute, 10 seconds left in the first half.
But the Cougars would respond with an interesting, though eventually fruitful drive to close the half.
Starting at their own 38-yard line, the Cougars used Gadient’s legs – and a key, 26-yard pass to Jacob Forrey – to move deep into Triton territory. With four seconds on the clock, Gadient escaped a collapsed pocket, ducked a would-be tackler, and fled for the far sideline. With the scoreboard’s siren blaring, Gadient heaved a pass that was caught by Tschann, giving the Cougars some hope heading into the break.
“We had our chances to put more points on the board in the first half and we just weren’t able to,” Rauen said “But, like I said, I was really happy with the way our kids responded tonight. Coming here, I knew it would be a tough game. They’re a very physical team, and we met the challenge tonight.”
Gadient finished the game15 of 23 for 215 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Tshcann caught just the one pass, adding 15 yards on 17 carries. Hirman caught six passes for 82 yards, Jacob Ugland snagged three balls for 38 yards and Forrey hauled in three for 44 yards. Hunter Prodzinski had the other two receptions for Z-M, totaling 37 yards.
The Cobras closed the scoring with a safety in the third quarter, followed by Stacey Jackson’s 4-yard run in the fourth quarter. Triton piled up 430 yards rushing, including 273 in the first half, with Otto throwing one incomplete pass.
The Cougars will now turn their attention the playoffs where Z-M is expecting a No. 3 seed in the Section 2AA tournament. Being a top-four team in the section guarantees the Cougars a home game Tuesday, likely against a team with one or fewer wins.
No matter who travels to Zumbrota, Rauen likes the way his team is set up for a possible run through the playoffs.
“I feel a lot better about going into the playoffs now after tonight’s performance than I did after last week,” Rauen said. “We kind of got it handed to us last week, and didn’t really respond in the second half the way I thought we should have.Tonight, though, we were just the opposite. We responded all night long.”
The Cougars (4-4) will know their opponent some time Thursday after the seeding takes place.