MINNEAPOLIS - The Mahnomen-Waubun Thunderbirds jumped all over Springfield scoring four touchdowns in the first half en route to a 38-0 Minnesota Class 1A state semifinal football victory at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis Saturday, Nov. 17.
“Another very good team win for us,” head coach John Clark, Jr. said. “Our offensive line controlled the first half of the game and our defense was solid the entire game.”
Mahnomen-Waubun’s defense has not allowed a point scored against in two straight state shutout victories and the defensive unit got the momentum started Friday.
The Thunderbirds forced a fumble to stop the opening drive of the Tigers on a recovery by Chris Podlak.
Quarterback Jon Starkey put the ball on the ground twice early in Mahnomen-Waubun’s first drive of the game but was able to keep possession. Once the Thunderbird offense got into a rhythm, it scored on their first three offensive drives.
The running game led off with three straight Starkey rushes before giving way to Tayvis Zima and Parker Syverson to move 62 yards on nine plays for the first touchdown of the game on a fourth down, 14-yard run by Syverson. He converted the conversion run for an 8-0 lead with five-minutes, 52-seconds remaining in the first quarter.
Springfield gave the ball up in four plays on downs at the Thunderbird 45-yard line.
On the first play from scrimmage, Izaiah Asher sprinted 55 yards to the end zone and Syverson added another conversion run for a 16-0 lead one minute after the Thunderbirds’ first score.
“Obviously, we have some playmakers that can make plays if things do break down,’ said Clark, Jr. ”That’s been our recipe - run the ball and play defense and I thought we did that well today.”
A Syverson interception of a Decker Scheffler third-down pass gave Mahnomen-Waubun the ball back at midfield.
Jeffrey Cukla polished off a 10-play, 53-yard drive with a one-yard run and Starkey found Treston Spalla on the conversion pass for a 24-0 lead 45 seconds into the second quarter.
Starkey’s lone pass of the first half turned into a 66-yard touchdown reception to Spalla and Roy Bjorge booted the point-after kick for a 31-0 lead the Thunderbirds took into halftime.
After taking the second half kickoff, a 52-yard pass to Spalla had Starkey and the offense marching toward the end zone but Springfield managed to stop the Thunderbirds inside the red zone with the help of two penalties, one that negated a Starkey touchdown run.
The Tigers struggled to get the ball past midfield and after giving the ball up on fourth down the Thunderbirds ate up the last five minutes of the third quarter on a 10-play, 54-yard drive. That ended with a 12-yard pass from Starkey to Spalla in the opening minute of the fourth quarter to put running time on the clock.
The Thunderbird defense allowed 177 total yards to the Tigers and in two straight shutouts have allowed the offense to outscore their opponents by a combined score of 80-0.
“It’s fun watching these kids adjusting to what teams are trying to do,” said Clark, Jr. “Springfield did a good job at trying to hit us with the short passing game early. We did a great job of adjusting to that and coming up and pressing a bit. It’s something that, where we’re from, we don’t see that a lot. It’s fun to see kids learn as the game goes along and I give our defense and the defensive coaches a lot of credit.”
The Thunderbirds (12-0) will face the BOLD Warriors (13-0) in the Class 1A state championship game Saturday, Nov. 24 at 10 a.m. at U.S. Bank Stadium. BOLD overcame a slow start on the way to a resounding 37-7 victory against the Blooming Prairie Awesome Blossoms.
M-W 16 15 0 7 - 38
SPR 0 0 0 0 - 0
M - Syverson 14 run (Syverson run)
M - Asher 55 run (Syverson run)
M - Cukla 1 run (Spalla pass from Jon Starkey)
M - Spalla 66 pass from Starkey (Bjorge kick)
M - Spalla 12 pass from Starkey (Bjorge kick)