Nifty 150: Kesler reaches impressive milestone with Lourdes' victory against Pine Island

·6 min read

Sep. 17—ROCHESTER — Adam Sellner was still a year away from starting Kindergarten when Lourdes won its first state football championship under head coach Mike Kesler.

But as Sellner has come up through the Lourdes program, the importance of that Prep Bowl championship in 2010 — as well as state titles won in 2014, 2016 and 2018 — has not been lost on him or his teammates.

And while Sellner and his teammates with the 2022 Eagles aren't looking past next week, he said they understand what it means to put on a Lourdes jersey on a weekly basis.

"The legacy at Lourdes has been great," said Sellner, a junior and the team's first-year starting quarterback. "It's a lot of pressure living up to (the history) of Lourdes football, but I know this group of guys can handle it."

That has certainly been the case over the past two weeks.

After opening the season with a 35-14 loss at defending Class AA state champion and No. 1-ranked Chatfield, Lourdes has dominated its past two opponents. That includes a 34-0 shutout against Pine Island on Friday night at Rochester Regional Stadium.

Lourdes controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, which allowed it to control the field position and ultimately the scoreboard.

"We fired off the ball pretty good all night and took it to them on both sides," junior lineman Collin Weinschenk said. "We could feel it right from the start (that we could control the line). All the guys in our grade have been buds for a long time. We have high expectations and want to get it done together."

Friday's win was a milestone victory for Kesler, a Lourdes grad who is now in his 18th season as the Eagles' head coach and in his 26th season on the program's coaching staff. The victory is the 150th for Kesler as Lourdes' head coach, a number that includes 10 section championships and those four state championships.

"I've just been very fortunate here," said Kesler, who received the game ball, followed by hugs from his wife Jess and his children, twins Molly and Sam. "It means a lot being a Lourdes grad. My dad (Bill) was a captain here in '53, my brothers played here ... this place means a lot to us.

"I was excited to be named head coach 18 years ago. It's been a lot of fun and I'm so grateful to have the support I've had from so many, starting with my wife and kids."

On the field Friday, the Eagles' lines were the story.

Lourdes' defense sacked Pine Island quarterback Garett Sperber four times — including two on consecutive plays by 6-foot, 240-pound junior Will Roth — intercepted him once and recovered one Pine Island fumble. The Eagles allowed Pine Island to earn just 106 total yards of offense, with 90 of those coming from Sam Knox, who carried the ball 19 times.

"We got off the ball quickly," Kesler said. "I really like the way our front four played. Our linebackers played a little bit better than last week, too. Ultimately it starts up front and those four linemen (Roth, Weinschenk, Kevin Adeng-Kur and Thatcher Bochmann) are playing some pretty good football."

That stout defensive play led to outstanding field position for Lourdes' offense. After the first quarter, Lourdes' started six of its final seven drives in Pine Island territory, with an average starting position of the Panthers' 36-yard line.

Lourdes all but put the game out of reach by halftime. Freshman Caleb Akinbolu (12 carries, 76 yards) scored on a 35-yard run in the first quarter, then Sellner scored on short runs on the first and last possessions of the second quarter for a 20-0 halftime lead.

Eli Haight added a 3-yard TD run on the Eagles' first possession of the third quarter, and after Pine Island fumbled the ensuing kickoff, Ed Lovely capped a four-play drive with a 1-yard scoring run.

"We were getting a great push up front all night," said Sellner, who ran for 41 yards on 11 carries. "It all starts with them getting a good push, we've been saying it all week. If they're getting a 3-4 yard push every time, that means we're gaining at least 3-4 yards every play.

"We try to build on that. The 5-yard plays lead to 10-yard plays, and the 10-yard plays lead to touchdowns."

Lourdes (2-1) will now turn its focus to upstart La Crescent-Hokah — Lourdes plays there next Friday — which won its second consecutive game Friday night, beating Lake City 28-7 on the road.

Kesler said he has no doubt that the Eagles will prepare just as thoroughly for their next game as they did for the past three.

"I'm just really impressed with, even after the Chatfield game, the guys came in that Monday, Labor Day, and got better," Kesler said. "They were really adamant about watching film and being critical of themselves. It was the same last Saturday morning after a nice win against St. Charles.

"We'll do it again tomorrow morning. ... We had a lot of inexperience (coming into the season). We saw some bright things this summer, but we have a very tough district, and we feel like we have a pretty good football team. It won't be any easier next week, but it sure feels good to get a nice win like this."

LOURDES 34, PINE ISLAND 0

Pine Island 0-0-0-0 — 0

Lourdes 7-13-14-0 — 34

First Quarter

LRDS — Caleb Akinbolu 35 run (Aidan Jahns kick) 7:58.

Second Quarter

LRDS — Adam Sellner 2 run (Jahns kick) 10:03.

LRDS — Sellner 4 run (run failed) :34.

Third Quarter

LRDS — Eli Haight 3 run (Jahns kick) 6:01.

LRDS — Ed Lovely 1 run (Jahns kick) 4:05.

TEAM TOTALS

PI — LRDS

First Downs 6 — 17

Total Net Yards 106 — 257

Rushes-Yards 31-101 — 44-180

Passing Yards 5 — 77

Comp.-att.-int. 1-4-1 — 5-6-0

Fumbles-lost 1-1 — 1-0

Penalties-yards 4-22 — 2-10

Punts-avg. 7-21.0 — 3-29.0

Time of poss. 21:13 — 26:28

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

Rushing

P.I. — Sam Knox 19-90; Kellen Brewer 4-26; Drew Sailer 1-2; Zach Schaefer 1-2; Nick Thein 1-0; Garett Sperber 5-(minus-19). LRDS — Caleb Akinbolu 12-76, 1 TD; Eli Haight 8-42, 1 TD; Adam Sellner 11-41, 2 TDs; Deacon Langsdale 4-22; Michael Sieve 2-2; Gabe Quinones 1-2; Ed Lovely 2-1, 1 TD.

Passing

P.I. — Garett Sperber 1-4-1, 5 yards. LRDS — Adam Sellner 5-6-0, 77 yards.

Receiving

P.I. — Will Johnson 1-5. LRDS — Aidan Jahns 3-42; Hudson Fix 1-27; Eli Haight 1-8.