Swedes advance in state playoffs
Gothenburg shuts out Minden.
Gothenburg football coach Craig Haake has known from the beginning of the 2009 season that his team is capable of sustained drives and big plays.
In a cold rain that caused a squishy field Thursday night, it was the big plays that made the difference.“In that kind of slop, it’s hard to maintain any kind of consistent offense,” Haake said. “Minden’s offense is built to go three or four yards at a time. We rely on more movement. On that field, that concerned me.”
But four big plays resulting in touchdowns gave the Swedes a 24-0 victory over Minden in the first round of the Class C-1 state playoffs.
“Defensively we played a fantastic game,” Haake said.
Offensively, the Swedes found a way to get the job done.
Neither team scored in the first quarter but Gothenburg got on the board early in the second period when Tannor Mroczek returned a punt 34 yards for a touchdown.
“We had them pinned deep and I knew they didn’t want to punt to Tannor,” Haake said. “Really, they didn’t have much choice.”
Four big blocks helped get Mroczek in the endzone. The two-point conversion failed but Gothenburg led 6-0 with 11:44 to play in the first half.
That was also the score at halftime.
The Swedes found some success in the third quarter running the ball to the right side using Landen Haake as a decoy for Mroczek.
“We ran a couple of iso plays with Landen leading Tannor and got good yards,” Haake said. “Speed is a great thing but unless you can go forward, speed doesn’t do much for you.”
Even before halftime the middle of the field was a mud hole. The best footing, Haake said, was outside the hashes.
Late in the third period on second down with 10 yards to go from the Gothenburg 5-yard line, the Swedes ran a crossbuck play to Mroczek.
“Tannor got outside, hurdled one guy and he was gone,” Haake said. “I don’t know if it’s his hockey background or what but he seems to be able to make cuts on bad fields that no one else can manage.”
Mroczek ran 95 yards for a touchdown, tying the school record for longest run previously set by Swede history teacher and girls basketball coach Tim Peterson in 1976.
“Tannor has made a number of big plays for us this year,” Haake said. “That’s great news. He has gained confidence and now I think he believes he can break a big play against anybody.”
With 25 seconds to play in the third period, Gothenburg led the Whippets 12-0.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Mark Hilderbrand hit Patrick Reeves for a 23-yard touchdown reception to give the Swedes a more comfortable lead.
Mroczek capped the scoring with one more big play, a 67-yard run with 3:30 to play in the game.
The Swedes were unable to convert a single PAT on the night, something Haake said the team will work on this week.
Mroczek led the Swede rushing attack with 166 yards on seven carries for an average of 23.7 per carry.
Haake said three weeks ago, Mroczek was averaging 4 yards per attempt. He’s now up to 867 yards total for the season and 9.5 yards per carry.
Minden held Landen Haake, who averages 127 yards per game, to 55 yards on 13 attempts.
“I told Landen that every defense is designed to stop him right now,” the coach said. “Now teams are really going to have to pick their poison.”
Haake commended Hilderbrand and Reeves for their outstanding play as well.
“For Mark to have only one turnover in that mud fest was outstanding,” Haake said. “And Patrick Reeves blocked well, had eight tackles and a touchdown reception. Those kids really stepped up.”
The Swedes advance to the second round of the state playoffs traveling to Broken Bow Wednesday (tonight).
The Indians handed the Swedes their only loss so far this season with a late touchdown for a 14-13 win on Oct. 2.
“Broken Bow has gotten two district championships in a row, nudging us out,” Haake said. “As much as I would have liked a district championship, this game means a whole lot more.”
In their last meeting with the Indians, Gothenburg scored on the first possession and the last possession. Each series in between was hampered by penalties.
Haake said the Swedes must eliminate the penalties and control their nerves this time around.
“If anything, losing to them last time helped us,” Haake said. “I don’t think I’ll have to say much to get the kids ready to play this week.”