Football: Crusaders diffuse Bombers in 4AAA finalsAgainst his hometown, Lincoln Hochmuth helps defending state champs to another section title, beating Cannon Falls 61-21
By: Joe Brown, The Republican Eagle
WEST ST. PAUL – In Friday’s Section 4AAA championship game, a Cannon Falls quarterback led his team to a state berth.
That quarterback wasn’t in the Cannon Falls huddle. It was St. Croix Lutheran senior signal-caller Lincoln Hochmuth.
Although his family lives just four blocks away from Cannon Falls High School, Hochmuth followed in the path of his father and uncle, going to St. Paul’s Lutheran School in Cannon Falls before going to St. Croix Lutheran High School. But since third grade, he has been good friends with many of the Bombers players.
“It’s a little bit (weird), but it’s a lot of fun to play against those guys,” Hochmuth said. “It’s something we’ve always wanted to do since I got here.
“I was nervous, I’m not going to lie,” Hochmuth added. “If we lost, I wouldn’t hear the end of it.”
Although it came at the expense of his hometown buddies, Hochmuth and the defending state champion Crusaders clinched their second-straight section title with a 61-21 victory over Cannon Falls in West St. Paul.
Using its veer option attack, Hochmuth struck first, breaking loose on a 3rd-and-9 play to go 44 yards for the game’s first score, helping St. Croix Lutheran to an 8-0 lead with 7 minutes, 57 seconds left in the first quarter.
“There’s almost no one who runs that offense better than them that I’ve seen,” said Bombers head coach Josh Hofstedt. “(St. Croix Lutheran) is about as good as it gets for the offense they run.”
It was the Crusaders’ defense that gave Cannon Falls fits, limiting the Bombers’ rushing attack all game. With running backs Ian Althoff and Jordan Lundell held to 15 rushing yards combined, quarterback Hunter Johnson got Cannon Falls moving. At 5:09, Johnson bought some time on a broken play, connecting with Alex Bultena for a 22-yard passing touchdown to close the gap to 8-7. Bultena had two catches for 54 yards.
“I really had a good feeling,” Johnson said of Cannon Falls’ early offensive success. “It felt like we were up there with the best of them. It’s tough to stop.”
On St. Croix Lutheran’s next possession, a botched option pitch went into the hands of Cannon Falls’ Taylor Carlson, who sprinted into the end zone to give the Bombers the 14-8 lead.
“They did a good job early on,” Crusaders head coach Carl Lemke said of Cannon Falls’ run defense. “With that fumble and giving up that big pass play … that was not a way to start.”
From there, the Crusaders’ rushing game marched up and down the field with little resistance. Jeremy Sievert, who had a game-high 223 rushing yards on 16 carries, put St. Croix Lutheran ahead 16-14 with 2:50 left in the first quarter.
Then in the second quarter, Trever Koester ran in a pair of touchdown runs to put the Crusaders up 29-14 at halftime.
“It’s always a little bit of a slow start when we don’t know what the other team is going to do to stop our offense,” Hochmuth said. “Once we get everything figured out, we can get it rolling pretty good.”
After halftime, Koester, who had 143 rushing yards, got his third touchdown of the game, barreling over the goal line on a 1-yard run. With 7:36 left in the third quarter, Sievert beat the Bombers’ blitz for a long touchdown run, putting the Crusaders ahead 45-14.
St. Croix Lutheran outrushed Cannon Falls 496-132.
“I was surprised at how fast we got into it, and then we just kept rolling on offense,” Lemke said. “Watching (Cannon Falls) on film, I thought their defense would give us problems. We ran inside more than I thought we would, and it turned out to be positive for us.”
Down 45-14 and trying anything to keep his team in the hunt, Johnson improvised on another busted play, going across the field on a 66-yard touchdown scamper. Johnson was 5 of 13 passing for 88 yards, and had 96 rushing yards.
“That’s the fun of football,” Johnson said. “When they make you work, it’s just that much more fun. Obviously we’d like for things to run more crisp, but you got to do what you got to do.”
Hofstedt added, “That’s Hunter, that’s what he does. He’s a really gamey kid. I think the biggest compliment you can give an athlete is to say they’re a competitor, and Hunter is definitely that.”
The rest of the way was dominated by the Crusaders’ running attack, which added two more scores. St. Croix Lutheran’s rushers averaged over 10 yards a carry and accounted for eight touchdowns in the victory.
“They can go for three yards, three yards, three yards, and then 60 yards,” Hofstedt said. “They did quite a few of those.”
St. Croix Lutheran opens the Class 3A state playoffs on Nov. 10 against Blue Earth, the Section 3AAA champions.
Missing out on their first state berth since 1996, the Bombers closed out the year at 7-4 overall.
“This year was a great year for our program,” Hofstedt said. “To finish as the section runner-up, that is nothing to sniff at.