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It was halftime and even though Totino-Grace held a one-point lead over Mahtomedi Saturday afternoon, there wasn’t a satisfied person in the Eagles’ locker room.
“We didn’t compete the way we normally do. Our coaches were pretty firm about us playing better in the second half,” offensive lineman Andrew Jarosz said.
The message was heard and the Eagles responded. They put the clamps on the upstart Zephyrs and pulled away for a 21-6 victory in the Section 4, Class 5A semifinals.
The Eagles began the game looking every bit like the No. 1-ranked team in Class 5A. After forcing a three-and-out on Mahtomedi’s first possession, they drove 51 yards on eight plays, taking a 7-0 lead on a four-yard run by sophomore running back Kez Flomo.
After forcing a second-straight Mahtomedi punt, it appeared the rout could be on.
Problem was, the Zephyrs refused to cooperate.
After a fumble by Totino quarterback A.J. LaPanta, Mahtomedi (6-4) moved 40 yards for a touchdown. Running back Jackson Hull carryed the ball seven straight times before crossing the goal line from a yard out.
The Zephyrs missed the extra point, but had made a much more important point – they weren’t about to roll over. They had a chance to take the lead on their next possession, but Hull came up a yard short on fourth-and-four from the Totino-Grace five yard-line.
The halftime score was 7-6 Totino-Grace, but it was obvious that Mahtomedi was in control of the game.
“They were hungrier than us,” Totino-Grace linebacker Kurt Mattox said. “We have some history with those guys over the years. You could tell they wanted it. We had to come out hungrier.”
The Eagles did.
Totino-Grace (9-0) held Mahtomedi without a first down in the third quarter, including a huge stop after a LaPanta interception.
The offense, eschewing frills, began to exert itself. The Eagles took a 14-6 lead after a 10-play, 85-yard march that was all on the ground, capped by Flomo's 11-yard weave to the end zone.
The Eagles scored again on their next possession, crafting a nine-play, 71-yard drive in which only one pass was thrown. Mason Kaliszewski rushed for 54 of those yards and was rewarded with a two-yard touchdown for the final margin of victory.
“I think our guys were reading their press clippings,” Totino-Grace coach Jeff Ferguson said. “We wanted to come out in the second half and establish tempo. We’re blessed to have coachable kids. It’s gratifying when they listen.”