Football: Bombers state bid denied by Lourdes
ROCHESTER – Cannon Falls warmed up under a cool evening at Rochester Regional Sports Stadium on Saturday, feeling confident that the Section 1AAA championship game was more than just a 48-minute coronation for top-seeded Rochester Lourdes.
The Bombers, the No. 2 seed, had already lost to the Eagles this season. But the 11th game of the fall felt different. At least, it did for about three-and-a-half minutes.
“We thought we had a good chance. We really did. We weren't trying to be arrogant, we thought we were ready,” said Cannon Falls head coach Josh Hofstedt. “They're a heck of a team and a heck of a program. It did not work out that way (for us). Sometimes that's what happens in sports.”
Lourdes scored on its first three possessions on its way to a 41-14 victory that clinched a state berth for the fourth time in five years, and eighth time since 2006.
The opening kickoff was received by the Bombers, but Cannon Falls punted after gaining eight yards on three plays. The kick went only 15 yards, and the Eagles needed just three plays to score on Noah Hillman's 38-yard run. Hillman perfectly read the defense on the option, a recurring theme throughout the game that saw the Lourdes quarterback finish with 134 rushing yards on 18 carries.
The Bombers' second drive stalled at the Eagles' 22-yard line, and the defense made Lourdes work for its yards. But the Eagles still found the end zone with Carter Greguson, who had 70 yards on 17 carries, scoring on a 17-yard run.
The Bombers ensuing drive lasted about a minute, and ended with a bad snap on a punt that gave Lourdes the ball on the Cannon Falls' 19-yard line, which turned into seven more points and a 21-0 lead on Brenden Trahan's two-yard plunge.
“They dominated us inside. Their defense has been so tough all year,” coach Hofstedt said. “We thought we had something. The plan just didn't work like we thought. That's a good team. That's probably the state champion right there.”
The Bombers did get a boost with the following kickoff, a boot that Jake Christenson returned 70 yards to the Eagles' 20-yard line. Five plays later, Mason Hofstedt crossed the goal line to get Cannon Falls on the board, with a Chase Reber-to-Gage Hildebrandt conversion to make it a 12-point deficit. Mason finished with 110 yards on 20 carries, with Reber finishing 7 of 14 for 59 yards.
But there was little the Bombers could do to stop Hillman and the Eagles.
Forty seconds before halftime, Hillman scored again to make it a 28-8 game. Then, after receiving the second-half kickoff, Lourdes threw a haymaker. Greguson returned the kick 62 yards, and Hillman scored three plays later on a 15-yard run.
Mason Hofstedt's 74-yard return on the ensuing kickoff set up Hayden Strain's two-yard touchdown, but Cannon Falls got the ball back just three more times with a turnover on downs, an interception and the final whistle ending those possessions in succession.
Pat Leary scored the Eagles' final touchdown with 10 minutes to play. Lourdes is seeking its fourth state title, with the others coming in 1979, 2010, 2012 and 2014. And, once again, the Eagles are going to state at the expense of the Bombers, who lost a section final to Lourdes in 2013.
“I'm proud of our team, they way we responded this year,” Mason Hofstedt said through tears minutes after the conclusion of his final, stellar, high school season. “I'm just sad that it's done.”