A dominating defensive effort for Wabasso

Franta has 3 interceptions as Rabbits improve to 11-0 on the year

Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
Wabasso running back Cooper Taylor breaks free on a run in the first quarter of the Rabbits’ win against Bethlehem Academy in the opening round of the Class A State Tournament Saturday at New Ulm High School.

Staff photo by Steve Muscatello Wabasso running back Cooper Taylor breaks free on a run in the first quarter of the Rabbits’ win against Bethlehem Academy in the opening round of the Class A State Tournament Saturday at New Ulm High School.

NEW ULM — While the Wabasso offense has received its share of attention this season, the defense has been equally as impressive.

On Saturday, the Rabbits made a defensive statement with a 53-14 victory against Faribault Bethlehem Academy in the Class A state quarterfinals at New Ulm High School.

The win moves Wabasso (12-0) one step closer to the ultimate goal — a state championship. But first, it has to get past Ada-Borup/Norman County West (12-0). That game will take place at 9 a.m. on Saturday at U.S. Bank Stadium.

“Today might have been our best game defensively,” senior Jacob Plaetz said. “They had a tough line and we matched up with them pretty well.”

Tony Franta sparked the defensive effort with three interceptions. He was making good reads on BA quarterback Avery Hunt all game.

“He [Hunt] was looking at the receiver and the D-line was there and getting pressure,” Franta said.

The Rabbits’ offense dominated from the beginning and the defense created three turnovers in the first quarter alone, two courtesy of Franta interceptions and a fumble recovery. BA had five turnovers in the game.

Cooper Taylor scored on a 45-yard run and quarterback Nick Altermatt ran in a touchdown from 4 yards out to put the Rabbits ahead 14-0 after one quarter.

Fullback Kyle Jacobson got involved later, scoring on a 2-yard plunge midway through the second quarter and Cooper Taylor scored his second touchdown of the game with 40 seconds left in the half. That set up Wabasso’s most impressive play of the game late in the half.

BA turned the ball over on downs after it failed to get a first down with 5 seconds remaining in the half. That was enough time for Altermatt as he threw deep and found Colton Taylor for the 42-yard touchdown as time expired, giving the Rabbits a 36-0 lead after the 2-point conversion.

“I really wasn’t even looking down the field, I just threw it up and hoped for the best and Colton was right there under the ball, it was amazing,” Altermatt said. “I knew I was throwing it to the left and I have the two best receivers over there with Tony and Colton. Colton just comes down with it and it was good.”

It was a play that seemed to end all hopes for BA. For Wabasso, it got everyone even more fired up.

“That was the best play of the whole game right there, it just got everybody pumped up,” Franta said.

Franta’s third interception of the game set up a touchdown pass from Altermatt to Franta to make it 43-0 in the third quarter. Colton Taylor later booted a 30-yard field goal to make it 46-0 and Wabasso got a late touchdown from Isaac Schmeissing for the 53-0 margin.

The Cardinals scored twice late in the game to prevent the shutout.

Overall, it was an impressive win for the Rabbits on both sides of the ball.

“We have 11 seniors on the defensive side of the ball and we’ve been playing together a long time,” Altermatt said. “We all know what we’re doing and we have a great defensive coordinator. He puts us in the spots and we just make the plays.”

Cooper Taylor had 24 carries for 146 yards and Jacobson had 19 carries for 111 yards. Altermatt rushed for 59 yards and threw for 64 more and two touchdowns.

Even some of the Wabasso players were shocked by the convincing win.

“They had a tough defense, they were only one place behind us in the state so I was expecting less points for us,” Plaetz said. “Hey, we’ll take it.”

The Rabbits turn their attention to U.S. Bank Stadium. They lost to Minneapolis North there last year in the semifinals as North eventually won the title.

“I think we’ll be a lot better prepared,” Altermatt said. “We’ve been there last year so we know what it’s like, so all the nerves should be down a little bit.”

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