Rochester Lourdes took an unusual circumstance – namely, a two-touchdown deficit – and made the most simple adjustment possible.
It played better.
The No. 1-ranked Eagles (13-0) refocused and rallied to beat Annandale 20-16 in the Class 3A semifinals Saturday at the Metrodome. Quarterback Mark Pagel rushed for two touchdowns, including the game-winner on a 14-yard fourth-quarter burst.
The victory sends Lourdes to the Prep Bowl for the second time in three years. It won the Class 3A championship in 2010.
“We haven’t trailed, I don’t think, ever,” Lourdes coach Mike Kesler said. “We just stuck with what we do. We didn’t make any adjustments. We just had to play better football.”
Annandale issued an early challenge to Lourdes, scoring touchdowns on back-to-back possessions in the second quarter. The second, a 79-yard run by Brett Ahsenmacher, put Annandale up 14-0, The Cardinals had the Eagles reeling, putting up 230 yards of offense in the first half.
“That was definitely a wake-up call,” Pagel said. “We had to pull ourselves together, dust ourselves off and get ready to play a full game.”
Lourdes got its vaunted option running game rolling two possessions later, moving 50 yards in three plays, the last being a 24-yard cutback run by Pagel that sliced the deficit in half, 14-7.
The second half found Lourdes operating in more familiar circumstances. A mistake by Pagel in the end zone resulted in a safety and a 16-7 Annandale lead, but that was the last of the ragged play by the Eagles. Shutting down the run and harassing Annandale quarterback John Kalthoff consistently, the Eagles allowed just 33 yards of offense after halftime, a complete turnaround from the first half.
“We realized we weren’t playing well,” said defensive end Khoa Nguyen, who had a sack, forced a fumble and broke up a pass, all in the second half. “The key was not to get down on each other. We picked each other up.”