Wabasso marches back to state

File photo by Steve Muscatello Wabasso’s Nick Altermatt runs with the ball in a game at New Ulm Cathedral earlier this year. Altermatt and the Rabbits play Faribault Bethlehem Academy at 1 p.m. this Saturday in the Class A state quarterfinals.

WABASSO — Call it unfinished business for the Wabasso football team.

On Saturday, the Rabbits advanced to their second straight Class A state tournament after crushing New Ulm Cathedral 48-6. While the section championshp victory was a good feeling for a veteran Rabbits’ squad, there’s little doubt that Saturday’s win was just a small step in the ultimate goal: A state championship.

The Rabbits lost to Minneapolis North 16-8 last year in the state semifinals at U.S. Bank Stadium. North eventually won the state championship the next week, so the loss was tough to swallow at first.

The Rabbits take their first step toward a state title when they play Faribault Bethlehem Academy at 1 p.m. on Saturday at New Ulm High School. While getting back to state is nice, there’s still plenty of work to be done.

“Definitely, unfinished business,” senior Cooper Taylor said. “That was our motto this year, not only to get back to the state tournament but get back to U.S. Bank. We’ve got some unfinished business to take care of and that’s a state championship.”

Wabasso (11-0) features a running game led by a dominant offensive line. Taylor, who has 1,794 yards and 32 rushing touchdowns on the year, leads the way on the ground. Quarterback Nick Altermatt is also a dual-threat, rushing for 631 yards and 12 touchdowns. He’s also passed for 1,104 yards and has seven touchdown passes, five of those to leading receiver Colton Taylor (472 yards receiving).

Altermatt was the team’s quarterback last year and he knows that the Rabbits have remained focused all year. This Saturday’s game will be no different.

“It’s just a pitstop for us, we want to go out and do bigger and better things,” Altermatt said. “Hopefully we can get to that state championship game and bring home the big trophy.”

Cooper Taylor also has 219 yards receiving and a receiving touchdown.

With Cooper Taylor running around defenders, fullback Kyle Jacobson is the one running them over. The 230-pound back has 445 yards and 13 touchdowns on the year.

The Rabbits start 11 seniors on defense and four of those seniors have started four years. And three more are three-year starters, so the defense has plenty of experience and talent. The first-team defense has allowed just eight touchdowns this year.

Tony Franta, a senior who had two interceptions against New Ulm Cathedral including a pick-six just before time expired in the first half, said that the defense is also very strong.

“We just gotta take one game at a time, hopefully it ends up with us taking it all,” Franta said. “We’re great, we’ve been playing together since fourth or fifth grade, everyone knows how to make plays and we just work well as a team.”

Bethlehem Academy (7-3) won the Section 2A title (14-12 over St. Clair last Friday) and is also a running team. Jack Clark leads the offense with 1,283 yards rushing and nine touchdowns. Nathanael Bauernfeind (350 yards, two touchdowns) and Avery Hunt (252 yards, two touchdowns) also lead the way. Quarterback Damon Trump has thrown for 536 yards and seven touchdowns and Bauernfeind has 536 yards receiving and seven touchdowns.

The senior class has had this year circled for a long time. Head coach Joe Kemp first brought up the possibility of winning a state title when they were younger and now, all of that hard work has them three wins away from the dream.

“I called them together and we talked when we were in fifth or sixth grade and I said ‘if we stick together, this is the type of team that when you’re seniors, can win a Class A state championship,'” Kemp said. “We know you have to win one play at a time, but that’s in the back of their minds. Sometimes you gotta dream big.”