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Cougars hold off Knights in defensive battle

Staff photo by Travis Rosenau Cedar Mountain’s Maverick Weber throws a 2-point conversion pass to Christian Belcher while pressured by Sleepy Eye St. Marys’ Brandon Tauer on Saturday in Morgan. It was Cedar Mountain’s homecoming game and the Cougars picked up a 16-6 win.

MORGAN — In a meeting between two high-scoring 9-man football teams, defense proved to be the difference maker on Saturday.

With all 22 points scored in the first half, Cedar Mountain held off Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s for a 16-6 homecoming win in a 9-man South District, West Subdistrict football game.

Heading into the game, both teams were scoring an average of 30 points per game. There didn’t end up being a shootout on Saturday, however, thanks to strong defensive efforts from both squads.

Quarterback Cooper Freitag had an all-around strong day for the Cougars, throwing for a touchdown on six completions while rushing for 64 yards and a 2-point conversion. He also intercepted a pass.

“I thought our passing game was working over the middle in the first half,” Freitag said. “Defensively, we all stepped up, we all did our jobs, and everyone rallied to the ball. It was just a great team win today. Not many points scored, but not many points given up.”

Maverick Weber led the Cougars on the ground with 76 yards on 14 carries.

Knights quarterback Mark Anderson threw for 67 yards, while Jon Petermann rushed for 96 yards. Talan Helget had 33 yards receiving also for the Knights.

Cedar Mountain got the scoring going in the first quarter with a 3-yard TD run from Christian Belcher. A pitch to Weber and then throw to Belcher in the end zone gave the Cougars the 2-point conversion and 8-0 lead with 4:04 left in the quarter.

Freitag intercepted Anderson on the next St. Mary’s drive, taking the ball to the Knights’ 25-yard line. Freitag then completed an 8-yard pass to Blake Steffl and a 17-yard TD pass to Tim Christensen with 1:39 left in the first quarter. A 2-point conversion run by Freitag was good to give the Cougars a 16-0 lead.

After recovering a fumble on a backward pass from Anderson at the Knights’ 28-yard-line, the Cougars were in good position to score again. The Cougars, however, had the ball punched away at the 1 and recovered in the end zone by Kaleb Wait for a touchback early in the second quarter.

The Knights couldn’t get anything going on the following drive, but they did score later with 1:06 left in the half on a 2-yard run up the middle by Petermann. The Knights went for 2 on a run by Petermann but were stuffed short of the goal line.

Cedar Mountain had one more shot to put points on the board before halftime and got a pass interference call to bring them to midfield. But after Brandon Tauer sacked Freitag, Wait intercepted a long Freitag pass to close out the half.

The wind picked up in the second half, making Anderson and Freitag’s jobs harder yet.

For Freitag, that meant feeding Weber the ball more.

“Wind picked up, so we just gave it to our running back,” Freitag said. “He just led our team on offense.”

With the Knights trailing and Cedar Mountain making key tackles in the backfield, the Knights didn’t have much choice but to throw. Anderson was picked off twice in the second half by Lane Guggisberg and Ryan Kevelin, giving him three interceptions on the day.

“It isn’t all on him, but he’s kicking himself,” Knights head coach Kevin Currans said of Anderson. “He’s going to blame himself for those interceptions. The running game drives everything. I’d rather not throw at all if you can run, run, run, but when they make you have to throw it, it’s harder to have success, because it’s more predictable. You can’t just throw it when you want to unpredictably throw.”

While Saturday’s game wasn’t the high-scoring battle many in attendance might have been expecting, Cougars head coach Dwane Jemmings said he wasn’t surprised with how his defense controlled the game.

“The way our defense has been playing all year, we’ve been pretty good, I think we’ve given up 12, 13 points a game, so we’re not surprised with our defense and how they’ve done,” Jemmings said. “But St. Mary’s, they’ve got some athletes over there. Wait and Helget, Petermann, so they’ve got some explosiveness there.

“Last week after our loss at Lyle, we came out flat and didn’t play up to our potential. So today it was nice to see that we came out and played Cedar Mountain football, we got the win and that’s the most important thing.”

DEFENSIVE BATTLE

The Cougars were coming off of their lowest scoring outing of the year a week ago after Lyle-Paceli handed them a 14-6 loss.

In addition to pulling in three interceptions Saturday, Cedar Mountain also saw Nate Sandgren get a strip sack that was recovered by the Cougars at the St. Mary’s 1 with 31 seconds left in the game. After a run went nowhere, the Cougars let the rest of the clock run out for the win.

The 6 points allowed Saturday was the lowest point total allowed in five games for the Cougars this year.

Weber finished with 8 1/2 tackles to lead the Cougars on defense, while Jaxson Kerkhoff added six tackles.

“All week we watched film, and it’s pretty much Wait and Helget that they throw to,” Jemmings said. “So make the other kids beat us, and that’s what we tried to do. It’s tough to stop those two, but our secondary made plays when we needed to.

“That interception in the second posession by Cooper Freitag really got us ignited, but Ryan Kevelin also, I think we’ve got 10 or 11 interceptions so far in the season, we’ve got some ballhawking kids back there that have got a nose for the ball.”

For the Knights, Saturday’s game was the lowest amount of points they’ve scored in five games this season. The 16 points allowed Saturday ties for the second-most points allowed this season by the Knights. The Knights gave up just 8 points to Madelia last week in a 32-8 win at home, while they allowed 16 points to Nicollet on the road in a 34-16 win on Sept. 9.

“We got a great game out of our linebacker Hayden Zarn, he does really well,” Currans said. “Kaleb Wait, senior, did really well defensively today, too. We were hoping our front line would get more pressure on their quarterback, but they ran the ball a little more than we thought, too. So credit [Cedar Mountain] for a good game plan … on both sides of the ball.”

In addition to leading the Knights on the ground, Petermann led St. Mary’s defensively with eight tackles.

NEXT UP

Cedar Mountain (4-1) will now prep for a showdown at Red Rock Central (3-1) Friday night, while St. Mary’s (3-2) travels to Granada to take on Granda-Huntley-East Chain/Truman (3-1) Friday night.

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