North Prairie rallies past Cavalier
Cavalier’s spread offense gave North Prairie’s defense all sorts of fits in the first half.
The second half, however, was a different story.
North Prairie dominated the final two quarters, holding Cavalier to just one first down, and outscoring the Tornadoes 26-0 en route to a 40-32 come-from-behind victory in the quarterfinals of the Class A football playoffs on Oct. 31 in Rolette.
“Heart and guts – that’s what these kids showed in the second half,’ said Davy Zinke, NP coach.
And a dominating performance at the line of scrimmage.
The Cougars’ surge by the defensive linemen was quite noticeable, forcing Cavalier quarterback Jared Mack to hurry throws, many fell incomplete. Twice the defense sacked Mack and also bottled up the Tornadoes’ running game in the second half.
The play of the line on offense translated to big holes for NP senior Michael Bonn to run through. Bonn rushed for 139 of his season-high 224 yards in the second half. His 34-yard run midway through the third quarter brought the ball to midfield. The Cougars’ then converted two fourth down plays and capped off the 13-play 85-yard drive with an Everett Lervik three-yard touchdown run.
The score gave NP some much-needed momentum which it never relinquished. Following a Cavalier punt, three straight Bonn runs moved the ball to the Tornado 20-yard line. Then, on the first play of the fourth quarter, Jaden Pfeifer dropped back to pass, but tucked the ball under his arm and ran untouched to the end zone. NP cut the deficit to 32-26.
Again, the Cougar defense forced Cavalier to punt. Pfeifer then connected to Nathan Joraanstad over the middle on first down for a 34-yard completion to the Cavalier 26-yard line. Joraanstad grabbed the ball over a Tornado defender. Three plays later Bonn ran in from 16 yards and Jon Rush’s kick gave the Cougars’ a 33-32 lead with 9:24 remaining.
The Tornadoes were clearly rattled by the turnaround. It’s offense was forced to punt yet again after three plays from scrimmage. “We changed things up at halftime, and went back to how we played them defensively in the first game,’ Zinke said. “We took away some of those short passes.”
Tighter coverage in the secondary, enabled the Cougars’ down linemen more time to get past their blockers and force Mack to scramble in the pocket.
North Prairie moved the ball to the Cavalier 26-yard line, but the Tornadoes’ defense dropped Bonn for a loss on fourth down, turning the ball over to the Tornadoes.
However, Cavalier still couldn’t muster much offense. After a three-yard reception to Brandon Chrest. The next the three passes were incomplete, the final two broken up, by Cougar defenders.
NP’s offense took over at the Tornado 33-yard line and seven plays and 2:26 later was back in the end zone on Lervik’s 5-yard run. Rush’s kick gave NP a 40-32 lead.
The Tornadoes had one final possession, but Mack was sacked on first down and his second down throw was interecepted by defensive back Rush to seal the Cougars’ win.
It was a tale of two halves for Cavalier, which ended its season at 8-3, and two losses to NP.
The Tornadoes’ scored 19 unanswered points in the second quarter to build an 18-point lead at halftime. Three times the Tornadoes would score on fourth down plays in that quarter and NP had no answer to stop the pass-and-receiving combo of Mack and Chrest. Chrest caught TD receptions of 47, 79 and 5 yards. Mack finished 14 for 33 for 230 yards, but most of those receptions came in the first half.
NP did score first when Bonn rushed in from four yards out, and the Cougars’ defense forced Cavalier to punt on its first three possessions.
However, the Tornaodes made some adjustments to get their offense going in the final 15 minutes of the half.
The problem was it couldn’t carry over in the second half.
The win improved NP to 9-1 overall and a rematch with Langdon-Munich in the semifinals. L-M handed the Cougars its only loss.
Notes: NP advanced to its second Class A semifinal appearance in three seasons…NP’s defense, which gave up, on average, seven points in its first nine games, surrendered 32 in the first half against Cavalier… Tornado receiver Brandon Chrest had 176 yards receiving…The win was NP coach Zinke’s 50th career win…
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