Football: New London-Spicer prepping for big rematch at state

Nov. 8—NEW LONDON — The New London-Spicer Wildcats overcame adversity against Albany in the Section 6AAA championship to advance to the Class AAA state football tournament, where their quarterfinals opponent comes with familiarity.

NLS takes on Milaca, who the Wildcats upset 44-36 on Oct. 7, at 7 p.m. Thursday at Elk River High School. A trip to the Class AAA state semifinals is on the line, alongside a trip to U.S. Bank Stadium.

"We know Milaca has a really good football team this year," Wildcats head coach Chad Gustafson said. "We're just looking forward to the challenge and will try to play our best brand of football at the state tournament."

The Wildcats, ranked No. 8 in the QRF by

Minnesota-Scores.net

with an 8-2 record, the Wildcats look to upset No. 2 Milaca (9-1) for a second time this season.

Gustafson knows Milaca's talent runs deep on both sides of the football. However, a game-breaker for the Wolves who Gustafson mentioned by name is senior running back Jack Schoenborn.

Schoenborn is one of the top backs in Class AAA this season.

Of statistically recorded players by MN Football Hub

and through nine recorded games, he ranks tied for second in rushing touchdowns (22) and third in rushing yards (1,671) and yards per game (185.7) on 195 carries with zero fumbles.

"He might be the fastest kid I've ever seen in a high school football game," Gustafson said. "Because he is such a good player, it is hard to completely contain him. I think if anything, you can eliminate some of the big plays and slow him down somewhat because he's going to get his carries."

When the two teams faced each other, Schoenborn ran for 201 yards and three touchdowns, including one for 45 yards, on 13 attempts.

But the Wildcats also have one of top running backs in Class AAA this season in junior Mason Delzer. He ran for 208 yards and reached the end zone five times on 31 carries in NLS' upset win over Milaca.

Delzer has ran for 1,529 yards and 22 rushing touchdowns on 214 attempts in 10 games this season. He is averaging 7.1 yards per carry and 152.9 yards per game.

"We'll see what Milaca comes up with for a plan. Everybody knows who Mason is," Gustafson said. "Mason's had great success with the team, but we know that we have lots of weapons on our team."

Other weapons NLS sophomore quarterback Blake Schultz will have the option to get the ball to include but are not limited to: senior split ends Brycen Christensen and Gabe Rohman, junior wide receiver Grant Paffrath as well as senior running backs Gavin Degner and Hunter Downey.

"We know that there are other kids that will find their spot when their opportunity comes and they will give us a positive lift, whether it's running the ball, catching the ball or making an interception," Gustafson said. "We got a lot of good players."

Senior quarterback Dylan Greninger leads Milaca's offense. His weapons include Schoenborn, senior wide receivers Trace Hasz, Peyton Hunt and Corbin Sams and sophomore running back Bryce Mehrwerth, to name a few.

For Gustafson and Co., it will be about minimizing big plays from the Wolves' offense.

"A couple of weeks in a row, the defense has played championship-winning defense by holding the other team down while we get it figured out offensively," said Gustafson, whose defense allowed a combined 20 points in NLS' two section games. "The coaches continue to work their tails off to try to come up with the best plan to give the kids the best chance to succeed."

The Wildcats make their seventh appearance at state, as their journey toward their first Class AAA state title since 2009 begins Thursday.

The Wildcats look to punch their ticket into a semifinals matchup at U.S. Bank Stadium.

"The success is from all the hard work of all the coaches, players and parents. Here at New London-Spicer, it's a community," Gustafson said. "We want to get one more win to get the players and the student body to U.S. Bank Stadium."

Quarterfinals

* Cannon Falls (10-1) vs. Watertown-Mayer (10-1), 7 p.m. Thursday at Hastings

* Milaca (9-1) vs. New London-Spicer (8-2), 7 p.m. Thursday at Elk River

* Fairmont (9-2) vs. St. Croix Lutheran (5-5), noon Saturday at Burnsville

* Esko (11-0) vs. Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton (10-0), 1 p.m. at Brainerd

Semifinals

(Saturday Nov. 19 at U.S. Bank Stadium)

* Fairmont/St. Croix Lutheran winner vs. Esko/DGF winner, 2 p.m.

* Cannon Falls/W-M winner vs. Milaca/NLS winner, 4:30 p.m.

Final

(Saturday, Dec. 3 at U.S. Bank Stadium)

* Semifinal winners, 1 p.m.