Patriots to battle St. Croix Lutheran in semifinals
The Pequot Lakes football team hopes to add to their milestone season when the Patriots face the St. Croix Lutheran Academy Crusaders in the Class 3A state semifinals at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 18, in U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
Pequot Lakes, 9-2 overall and making its first state semifinal appearance, will need to slow down unbeaten St. Croix's explosive offense, which has scored 171 total points in its three playoff games. The Crusaders return to the state title game after defeating Rochester Lourdes 61-29 in the quarterfinals. Last season, St. Croix lost to Lourdes 42-35 in the championship game.
"I have watched a lot of film and (St. Croix) has a very good veer offense," said Pequot Lakes head coach Chip Lohmiller. "They have a great running back, Mike Stern, and quarterback, Jonathan Liesener, who runs the veer offense very well, and is also a good passer. They have a talented wide receiver in Garett Maag, who I believe is committed to the University of North Dakota."
Meanwhile, the Patriots also boast an explosive offense after scoring 124 points in their playoff wins - including an admirable 34-0 victory over the Mora Mustangs in the quarterfinals. It was revenge for Pequot Lakes, which had lost to Mora in the Patriots only other state appearance in the 2009 quarterfinals.
"We have not played (Pequot Lakes) before, but I know they have a big, strong tailback (Nathan Traut) with speed. And their quarterback (Blake Lane) is also a sizeable athlete with a valued combination of being able to run and throw. Their linemen have good size, mobility and quickness. Their two wideouts have great speed and good hands (Austin Young and Zach Sjoblad), and their tight end (Maxx Schindel) is physical."
The Patriots' offense is led by Traut, a senior who has carried 156 times for 1,308 yards - including 240 yards in the quarterfinal win. Traut has also scored 15 touchdowns on the ground and has 12 catches for 237 yards and four TD receptions.
Other top rushers for Pequot Lakes are Deven Psyck, 495 yards and eight scores; Lane, 484 yards and six touchdowns; and Calvin Maske, 426 yards and five scores.
As a senior quarterback, Lane has completed 56 of 113 passes for 1,077 yards and seven scores while sophomore Cale Wolf has completed 20 of 43 passes for 348 yards and four scores.
Other top receivers for the Patriots are Young, 26 receptions for 553 yards and four scores; Sjoblad, 11 catches for 253 yards and two scores; and Schindel, 16 grabs for 218 yards and three scores.
The Patriots might have a slight edge on defense - with four shutouts in their past five games. Pequot Lakes has allowed a total of just 49 points in its eight-game winning streak. But St. Croix Lutheran also has a talented defense - allowing less than 14 points five times this season.
"Defensively, they are very aggressive," Lohmiller said. "I'm not sure how they will line up against us with so many weapons. Our defense has been very strong all year, so this will be a good match up."
On defense, Pequot Lakes is allowing 192 total yards per game. The Patriots are led by Maske with 68 total tackle points, Schindel 67 points, Tyler Manley 61, John Marchwick 51.5, Tim Ryan 50 and Garrett Wolf 46.5. Wolf has a team-high four sacks and five fumble recoveries while Dylin Akerman has a team-high five interceptions.
"Our offense probably gets the most attention even though we also play fairly well on defense," Lemke said. "Our roster size and depth are very important factors to our success, and we have had good athletes. But Pequot Lakes is also a very talented, well-coached group."
Pierz (11-0) faces Jordan (9-3) in the other semifinal at 2 p.m. on Saturday. The championship game is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 25, at U.S. Bank Stadium.