Tigers seek redemption against SEU in 3A title game | News, Sports, Jobs

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Staff photos by Travis Rosenau
Talan Helget, left, and the rest of the Sleepy Eye United football team will battle Jakob Nachreiner, right, and the Springfield Tigers in the Section 3A title game this Friday at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall.

MARSHALL — Sleepy Eye United can take pride in knowing they’re the only football team to put a blemish on the Springfield Tigers’ record this season.

With a 16-14 win on Sept. 29, SEU handed the Tigers their only loss of the year in front of a packed crowd at Sleepy Eye High School.

But that was a month ago, and the two powerhouse teams will meet again with more at stake Friday night in the Section

3A Championship at Southwest Minnesota State University.

The September win over Springfield was an exciting boost of confidence, but SEU will need more — and from their of- fense in particular — if they want a repeat win.

“We are going to need more from our offense,” SEU head coach Brent Kucera said. “Our offense really — outside of a few plays — we really struggled against Springfield, I’m not gonna lie. We’ve gotta be more consistent on the ground and we’ve gotta be more consistent in the pass-

ing game and get consistent completions. When we get our chances, we’re going to, and I think both teams are going to be the same — when you get a chance one on one with a stud athlete, you’re going to give them that chance.

“The big difference, though, with us two teams matched up is your one-on-ones are a stud athlete versus a stud athlete. So that’s a 50-50 matchup. Both teams have really good athletes on the edge.”

In the win over Springfield, SEU quarterback Caden Evers threw for 115 yards and a touchdown, while Jon Pe- termann rushed for 86 yards and a TD.

On the Springfield side, Sam Rum- mel rushed for 79 yards on the ground, while senior quarterback Jakob Nach- reiner aired it out and racked up 345 yards passing with two touchdowns.

The big difference, however, was that the SEU defense picked off Nach- reiner three times.

“It’s going to be up to us to be dis- ciplined with the football,” Springfield head coach Adam Meyer said. “We turned it over too many times last time we played them, and when you play re- ally good teams, you can’t afford mis- cues like that. We had some snaps that were bobbled or on the ground, things that are maybe a little bit uncharacter- istic of us.

“But that’s where you have to give credit to the team you’re playing when they’re maybe trying to speed you up a little bit or putting you in situations that you haven’t seen, especially early in the season like that. … And when we do have some opportunities, we [need to] take advantage and try to score some points that way.”

Springfield, the third seed in the section and 9-1 overall this year, is hot off a convincing semifinals win over second-seeded Tracy-Milroy-Balaton in Tracy this past Saturday. The Tigers won 50-14.

Meyer said he’s proud of the way his team has been playing, but he and the team are keeping a levelheaded ap- proach going forward.

“Overall you just have to take it game by game,” Meyer said. “We’re excited about how we’re playing, but that doesn’t mean we get to continue to do that. We have to go out and prove it every game, and playoff time espe- cially, teams are preparing for you, every game matters that much more.

“So it’s important that we continue to execute at a high level and play with a lot of energy and effort. I thought our kids did an outstanding job of that Sat- urday and the Tuesday before that as well, and we’re hoping that continues on Friday.”

In SEU’s semifinals win at home over Adrian/Ellsworth, both teams had a slower first quarter before SEU broke things open in the second quarter and ran away with a 40-14 win.

SEU, 8-2 on the year, were upset by Martin County West 16-8 on Oct. 6 and upset again on Oct. 18 by Adrian 22-18.

SEU may have came into those matchups a little overconfident, but they were able to avenge the loss to Adrian when it mattered. SEU won’t be able to get the MCW game back this year, but it’s in the rearview mirror and the only focus now is on Springfield.

And SEU certainly won’t be over- looking Springfield on Friday, no mat- ter what happened in Sleepy Eye on Sept. 29.

“That win gave us confidence, but we know and we’ve told the kids, I think everybody knows that Spring- field is still the team to beat,” Kucera said. “I think they’re the most talented team in Class A. They are the team to beat. So we won’t have any overconfi- dence going into this, I truly think the pressure’s on Springfield.”

CLEAN IT UP

Both teams will look for a cleaner matchup this time as their prior Week 5 matchup featured 10 Springfield pen- alties and nine SEU penalties.

“We have to get rid of the penal- ties,” Kucera said. “We had well over 100 yards from penalties, and that just killed our drives. And we have to be more physical on both sides of the ball. And from that game to now, we are a way different team and we are way more physical, we’re more disciplined, so we’ve done good that way. But I know Springfield is a lot better as well and they are really motivated to come back and beat us this time.”

With those penalties and three Na- chreiner interceptions, Springfield also turned the ball over twice by losing two fumbles.

“Taking care of the football is No. 1 for us,” Meyer said. “And then limiting big plays and trying to create a couple of our own are some keys as well.” KEEP AN EYE ON…

Despite that earlier loss to SEU, Springfield wideout Carter Olson had a night to remember with 14 catches for 158 yards and one of the team’s two touchdowns. He was Nachreiner’s go-to option last season and has been again this year.

Despite playing just eight of the team’s 10 games, Olson leads the team in receptions with 50. He’s also sec- ond in both receiving yards (847) and touchdowns (14).

Petermann has 130 carries for 899 yards and eight TDs to lead the SEU ground game this season. While he has just 10 catches on the year, three of them came in the win over Adrian this past Saturday. Petermann got involved in the passing game in a big way in the semifinals, finishing with three catches for 125 yards and two TDs. NUMBERS GAME

Evers has thrown for 1,138 yards and 19 TDs on a 57% completion per- centage in nine games this season. He’s also taken care of the ball well, throw- ing just three interceptions.

Austin Uecker leads SEU in catches with 33 for 419 yards and five TDs, but 6-4 junior Talan Helget has 30 catches for a team-leading 608 yards and 11 scores.

Uecker also has been big for the SEU defense with six interceptions, two going for touchdowns, and 28 tackles, while Cody Schultz leads all SEU defenders in tackles with 76.

Nachreiner, who finished last sea- son with 40 touchdown passes in 13 games, is already up to 47 TD passes this year in 10 games. He adds 2,683 yards passing and seven interceptions on a 66.5% completion percentage.

While Olson has been the top target for Nachreiner, Brayden Sturm is close behind with 48 catches for a team-best 892 yards and 16 TDs.

SEU has mixed it up this season with 1,273 yards rushing and 1,389 yards passing.

Springfield has been dynamic through the air with 2,714 yards pass- ing but has kept teams honest with its ground game also, rushing for 1,481 yards.

Ashton Toll leads the Springfield defense with 96 tackles, while Sam Pidde has a team-best six interceptions, just ahead of Sturm, who has five inter- ceptions.

Springfield pass rushers have racked up 16 sacks this season also to SEU’s nine.

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