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Football: St. Charles wins wild, windy one over Z-M

Zumbrota-Mazeppa quarterback Isaiah Stueber throws a pass to the sideline during the Cougars' 32-14 loss to St. Charles on Friday. (Republican Eagle photo by Kyle Stevens)

ZUMBROTA -- Three minutes. That will be the defining time of Friday's game between Zumbrota-Mazeppa and St. Charles. For three quarters, the two teams fought each other, the wind, and some crucial mistakes.

But when the final whistle blew, it was the Saints who came away with a big Southeast White District victory, 32-14, but probably not enough leverage in Section 1AA seeding.

Things began well for the Cougars, who, with a significant wind behind their back, were able to get the game's first points, on a six-yard Isaiah Stueber throw to Kevin Nordquist on a fourth-and-goal situation with 2 minutes, 4 seconds left in the first quarter.

St. Charles would not be able to respond until Hunter Spitzer capped off a drive with a two-yar run that cut Z-M's lead to 7-6 with 6:04 to play in the second quarter. Then, just less than six minutes later, seconds after leading rusher Parker Wendt was carried off the field, Saints quarterback Nolan Boice scored from a yard out to give St. Charles a 12-7 lead going into halftime.

“It's next man up for them. It wasn't a shocker that they'd run things well. They do it the right way. We knew what we had to stop, and we didn't stop it. We knew what we had to execute, and we didn't execute it,” said Z-M head coach Darin Raasch. “Don't take anything away from St. Charles, they did exactly what they needed to do. That's the way the game goes. We can play better, and they played well enough to win.”

In the third, again with the wind, the Cougars could not move the ball like they did in the first. But St. Charles also struggled, and, the breeze stiffening, the Saints were forced to punt. And unlike previous times, Nordquist caught the kick, ran left, made one decisive cut, and raced 70 yards to the end zone for a 14-12 lead.

The final 1:16 ran out in the third quarter, and the Cougars were in great position, just needing to chew some clock.

Z-M did that, for a while. But Keagan Maloney, taking over for Wendt, finally broke through the middle of the Cougars' defense for a 59-yard touchdown with 3:34 to play that completely deflated the Z-M sideline and crowd.

Then, the Cougars dropped a pass on fourth-and-one gave the ball back to St. Charles at the Saints 40-yard line. Five plays later, Maloney, on his fourth carry of the drive, broke for a 17-yard score.

Decimated, Z-M gave it one last shot, but Maloney picked off Stueber and returned the ball 30 yards for his third touchdown in less than four minutes. St. Charles then took a knee to run out the final half-minute as the ensuing kick return was fumbled near midfield, capping a chaotic final quarter that left the Cougars in a daze.

“We have to run the ball with more efficiency, and we had some dropped balls and some batted passes and those are mental things,” Raasch said. “Yeah, there was wind, but I'm not using that as an excuse. Our quarterbacks are good enough that we can throw short and intermediate routes in this and survive. Give St. Charles credit, they're built to win in October and November, and they've got things going well right now.”

Stueber finished 12 of 24, but only for 63 yards as the wind kept the passing game close to the line of scrimmage. Stueber also had 28 yards rushing on two carries, with Caden Steffen adding 26 yards on five carries. Robvon Jackson had 23 yards on four receptions, with Isaiah Nolte grabbing three for 17 yards.

Maloney finished with 148 yards on 20 carries, with Wendt totaling 116 on 16 first-half rushes.

On Wednesday, Z-M (5-2, 4-2 White) will head to Pine Island needing a win to likely secure the No. 2 seed in the Section 1AA playoffs. The Panthers have lost three-straight, and four of five, including a 32-6 loss to Triton on Friday.

Kyle Stevens
Kyle Stevens is a sports reporter for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, Kyle worked at the Owatonna People’s Press, as well as KWLM and KLFN in Willmar. You can contact Kyle by phone at (651) 301-7879, via e-mail at kstevens@republican-eagle.com, and follow him on Twitter @RE_KStevens.
(651) 301-7879
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