Wheaton stuffs Cromwell
MINNEAPOLIS -- For most high school football teams, a 17-play drive comes around maybe once a season. Cromwell had 18- and 17-play drives on its first two possessions Friday against Wheaton, but the Cardinals had nothing to show for it after gett...
MINNEAPOLIS -- For most high school football teams, a 17-play drive comes around maybe once a season.
Cromwell had 18- and 17-play drives on its first two possessions Friday against Wheaton, but the Cardinals had nothing to show for it after getting stopped twice on fourth-and-short plays.
Moments after the second failed conversion, Lucas Armstrong raced 88 yards for the first of his two touchdowns to send Wheaton on its way to a 22-7 victory in a Minnesota Nine-Man semifinal game at the Metrodome.
The third-ranked Warriors (12-0) play three-time defending champion Stephen-Argyle (12-0) in the Prep Bowl at 8 a.m. next Friday at the Metrodome. Stephen-Argyle, which defeated Cromwell in last season's title game, has won a state-record 53 straight.
Cromwell finished the season at 12-1.
But the outcome could have been different if the Cardinals had converted on their first two drives. They drove 65 yards on 18 plays on the game's opening possession, converting two fourth-down plays along the way. But the drive stalled at the Warriors' 15-yard line on a Cody Hendrickson fourth-down incompletion.
Wheaton followed with a 15-play drive that ended with Jay Nelson missing on a 37-yard field-goal attempt.
Cromwell then drove from its 20 to the Wheaton 3, using 18 plays and taking 7:35 off the clock before Reece Hanson sacked Hendrickson on a fourth-and-one play.
"It's extremely tough to take," Cromwell coach Jeff Gronner said. "I felt that we outplayed them in the first half, but we were down 6-zip. We controlled the line of scrimmage on offense and our drives stalled.
"The big one was that second drive on fourth-and-one and [Wheaton coach Tony Thiel] sent the farm and we got stuffed. Even then I was confident, because we were controlling the line of scrimmage."
Moments after the big defensive play, with the Warriors simply trying to get a first down and run out the clock, Armstrong busted through the line on his 88-yard run for a 6-0 lead with 1:17 left in the first half.
"He's extremely hard to tackle," Gronner said. "He runs hard, follows his blockers well and we had a hard time tackling him."
Armstrong finished with 217 yards on 27 carries, giving him 1,875 yards this season. He had 123 at halftime, but that didn't mean the Warriors were in command.
"In the locker room we weren't happy with a 6-0 lead," Armstrong said. "It really felt like we were losing. We definitely came up huge in the red zone."
Cromwell's Mario Olensci recovered his own onside kick to start the second half, but again Hendrickson was stuffed on fourth-and-one at the Wheaton 40.
Ten plays later, Armstrong scored on a 5-yard run and added a 2-point conversion for a 14-0 lead. The two touchdowns gave the 6-foot-1, 196-pound senior 35 for the season. Wheaton rushed for 319 yards and didn't attempt a single pass.
"We kept it on the ground and our line did awesome," Armstrong said. "This is the best time I've ever experienced."
The Cardinals rallied behind Hendrickson, who completed 17 of 27 passes for 211 yards and rushed 27 times for a team-high 81 yards. He rolled out and passed back across the middle for a 15-yard touchdown to John Hedin with 2:07 left in the third quarter, trimming the deficit to 14-7. Hedin led the team with seven receptions for 55 yards.
But it was another pass attempt to Hedin that sealed Cromwell's fate.
After Wheaton's Luke Schmitz scored from 30 yards out for a 22-7 lead, Hendrickson led the Cardinals on one last desperation drive. Faced with a fourth-and-six play at the Wheaton 35 -- Cromwell was 5-for-9 on fourth downs -- Hendrickson lofted a pass to a wide-open Hedin at the 5. But Armstrong raced over to knock the ball away.
"I just saw it at the last minute and fortunately got a hand on the ball," Armstrong said.
Just another drive that went awry for the Cardinals.
Wheaton 0 6 8 8--22
Cromwell 0 0 7 0--7
W--Lucas Armstrong 88 run (run failed)
W--Armstrong 5 run (Armstrong run)
C--John Hedin 15 pass from Cody Hendrickson (Mario Olensci kick)
W--Luke Schmitz 30 run (Sam Thielen run)
RUSHING: W--Lucas Armstrong 27-217, Luke Schmitz 3-38, Jay Nelson 5-37, Sam Thielen 4-13, Ryan Schwagel 2-9, Riley Doschadis 1-7; C--John Hedin 10-43, Grant Odegaard 7-30, Cody Hendrickson 27-81, Johny Richards 3-11.
PASSING: W--Ryan Schwagel 0-0-0-0; C--Hendrickson 17-27-0-211, Adam Smith 1-1-0-14.
RECEIVING: C--Hedin 7-55, Levi Sheff 4-73, Logan Shiflett 3-47, Jordan Johnson 3-39, Odegaard 1-11.