Just about anything that could go wrong did for senior Jordan Hull and his Mahtomedi teammates in the first half of their matchup against Cretin-Derham Hall on Friday night.
A fumble set up one touchdown, then a blocked punt and a sack and fumble yielded two more as the Raiders rolled off 20 unanswered points.
But the Zephyrs hung tough and eventually got back on track, rallying to win 23-20 at George Smith Field.
“We keep saying ‘next play, next play,’ ” said Hull, who led his team in rushing with 17 carries for 71 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown run in the first quarter that gave Mahtomedi an early 7-0 lead. “There’s no reason to stop and dwell on it when something bad happens. You just have to stay focused and keep working hard until the end of the game.”
A lot did go bad for the Zephyrs as the first half went on.
First, Cretin-Derham Hall senior Remi Pye recovered a fumble at the Mahtomedi 41, setting up a 19-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Luke Floysand to classmate Sana Anetipa that cut the Mahtomedi lead to 7-6.
Then, one play after the Raiders were called for running into the punter, Cretin-Derham Hall junior Sean Robinson blocked a Zephyrs’ punt and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown. The two-point conversion put his team on top 14-7.
The Mahtomedi misfortunes continued on its next possession when sophomore quarterback Charles Brandt was hit hard and coughed up the football. Raiders senior Jack Giuliani recovered the fumble and returned it eight yards for a score to extend the margin to 20-7.
“We made some big plays in all three phases of the game,” Cretin-Derham Hall coach Chuck Miesbauer said. “Offense, defense and special teams. That second quarter was really a balanced effort.”
But the Zephyrs cut the gap to six when senior Jonathan Harvey scored from 3 yards out to make the score 20-14 at halftime.
“We talked at halftime and told the kids we just had to get back on track,” Zephyrs coach Dave Muetzel said. “We were fortunate to only be down by six. We knew if we relaxed and got back to the game plan, we’d be OK.”
Indeed, Mahtomedi retook the lead when Brandt connected with junior Ramsey Morrell on a 22-yard touchdown pass with 2:06 to play in the third quarter.
Then, after Hull made a great play to evade pressure and avoid what could have been a second disastrous blocked punt midway through the fourth, the Zephyrs downed the ball at the Raiders’ 2. Two plays later, senior Kai Sather tackled Cretin-Derham Hall running back Will Haider in the end zone for a safety to make the score 23-20.
“It was a high snap and I saw the guys coming for me,” Hull said. “Including the guy who blocked me in the first half.
“This time, I really wanted to avoid him.”
The Raiders got the ball back at their own 21 with 4:26 to play, but an interception by junior Sam Garry ended the drive. Cretin-Derham Hall had one last chance on offense in the game’s final 30 seconds, but the Mahtomedi defense was able to hang on.
“We’ve got to learn how to win,” said Miesbauer, whose team fell to 0-2 in its first season making the step down from Class 6A to 5A.
The Raiders have faced teams ranked in the top 10 in the AP state poll the past two weeks and will face a third in St. Thomas Academy next week.
“We have a lot of really talented football players. But we have to learn how to win,” Miesbauer said.
The Zephyrs, ranked No. 7 in Class 5A, improved to 2-0.
“Last week (in a 37-7 win over Apple Valley), we were fundamentally sound,” Sather said. “This week, we got a little shaky on the fundamentals in the first half. But we showed a lot of heart. If we can put the fundamentals and heart together, we can really be a force to be reckoned with.”