Tartan defense stifles North in section football playoffs

For the first time in the history of Tartan High School, the Titans have won the first two games of the sectional football playoffs and advanced to the finals and a chance at gaining a state tournament berth.

The Titans posted a 14-0 shutout over North for the right to meet Stillwater, Nov. 3, in a game that will be played at Stillwater.

In Section 3AAAA play, Mahtomedi played at Hill-Murray. The defending champion Zephyrs leveled the count against the Pioneers.

Earlier Hill-Murray, on their way to a record of 8-0, had posted a 15-7 triumph over the previously unbeaten Zephyrs.

Mahtomedi got up on Hill-Murray and this time didn't let the Pioneers come all the way back. They closed the door on the Pioneers and left them on the outside looking in, as Mahtomedi advanced to the finals of section play with a 3-point, 25-22 win.

Tartan 14 - North 0

On a crisp Oct. 29 night, ideal for football, a bundled-up near capacity crowd came to Titanville to watch a showdown battle between School District 622 rivals Tartan and North.

Tartan had gained a spot in semi-final action with a 27-0 trouncing of St. Paul Harding.

The Polars had put together a solid game of defense, which augmented their offense and posted a 20-13 overtime victory over the No. 1-ranked Johnson Governors.

The wins by both set the stage for the Section 3AAAAA meeting between North and rival foe Tartan.

It was the first time the combatants had met in sectional play. It was the first time both had advanced past the first round and it was the first time, for Tartan, to gain a spot in the finals.

While the North defense played hard, and for the most part shut the Titans down, the Tartan defense played harder.

It was the Tartan defense which, time and again, gave the Titans opportunities.

Tartan first-year head coach Darin Glazier alluded to the defense when he said, "Absolutely! It was the defense which, throughout the whole game, was fighting to the ball and making big plays. They kept giving our offense opportunities. We were able to capitalize enough and the defense shut North down."

Just before, Glazier told his assembled, triumphant Titans, "This field is ours. We defended it all season long and we did it again tonight. I'm proud of what you've done this year."

Tartan is now 5-0 in games they played at home.

"This is the first time a Tartan team has made it past the first round in the sections," Glazier continued. "Now we'll be going after Stillwater with everything we've got."

From the North perspective, coach Jim Honsa said, "We played them tough. They have a solid, well-coached team. I'm proud of the way out defense played. Their defense just shut us down. On offense we just couldn't get it going."

The loss ended the North season with a record of 2-8. Tartan will bring their 7-4 record into the Section 3AAAAA finals against the Ponies.

In all the Tartan defense limited the Polars to just three first downs. They had two interceptions, both by sophomore defensive back Marc Sonnen, and late in the game they had a pair of sacks for minus 20 yards.

The Tartan offense was led by quarterback Sam Ryan. Ryan carried the ball 15 times and gained 86 yards, a 5.7 per carry average, and scored the two Tartan TDs.

The Polars got a huge defensive boost when they rose and stopped a Tartan drive at their one-yard line. But the offense sputtered and stopped when Sonnen intercepted to give Tartan a first down at the North 35.

The first Tartan tally came in the second quarter. A couple of runs were followed by a Ryan pass to Sonnen that netted nine yards and a first down at the North 24.

Ryan went 11 yards to the 13. Hedca Neufville carried a couple of times and when Ryan kept at the two-yard line, the first points were posted. Jon Stockton booted the point after and 18:04 into the contest, Tartan was up 7-0.

The teams struggled to half-time with the count remaining the same.

Both defenses remained solid before Tartan picked up three first downs. Then the North defense again stiffened.

With fourth down at the Polars' 21, the Titans attempted a 38-yard field goal. It sailed just wide.

But the Titans were beginning to taste victory. North got the ball on their own 20 and on the first play, Sonnen made his second interception to give the Titans a first down at their own 46.

A couple of runs were stopped for no gain. On third and 10, suddenly Ryan found a hole up the middle. He made a quick cut to his left, gave a spurt of speed and saw daylight. Once free, it was "Katie-bar-the-door" and Ryan went 54 yards for his second six points of the night.

Stockton made good on the PAT and with 2:56 remaining to be played, the Titans had driven the final nail into the 2006 North football season.

Mahtomedi 25 - Hill-Murray 22

Back on Sept. 15, at Mahtomedi, the upstart Hill-Murray Pioneers moved into recognition when they handed Mahtomedi their first defeat since the 2005 football season.

Suddenly the Pioneers' defense, unsung but confident before that game, distinguished itself and would no longer be taken for granted.

Spring-boarding off that game, which pushed the Hill-Murray mark to 3-0, the Pioneers went on a tear.

They began to wipe away every foe in the Classic Suburban Conference and ended with a tie for the title on the strength of a 7-0 conference and 8-0 overall record.

As play moved into the postseason playoffs, the Pioneers' vaunted defense had earned them the No. 1 ranking in Section 3AAAA and a "bye" in the first round of competitions.

While Hill-Murray waited in the wings, Mahtomedi, ranked No. 4 in the section, advanced to the semi-finals with a 27-23 win over Simley (5).

The semi-final contest was played on a crisp afternoon at Hill-Murray before a jubilant Saturday afternoon crowd.

The Pioneers drew first blood when Charles Bruchu lofted a pass that senior tight end Joe Czaplewski gathered in for a 16-yard TD score.

B.J. Otto booted the extra point and early in the second canto, Hill-Murray owned a 7-0 leeway.

The gap narrowed to one when Zephyrs captain, running back Mike Connelly, broke a couple of tackles on his way to an 11-yard TD. When the point-after boot flew wide, it was 7-6 Hill-Murray.

The Zephyrs regained control of the ball and finished a drive with a 2-yard plunge by senior leader Connelly.

Again the PAT missed and Mahtomedi took a 12-7 margin into the locker room at intermission.

In the third stanza the Zephyrs added to their margin when junior quarterback Vaughn Schmid hit Sam Gilsrud on a 20-yard strike for six more points.

Mahtomedi went for two points but the run was stopped by the stubborn Hill-Murray defense.

The Pioneers then countered and it was Otto who finished a drive with a one-yard plunge. He then kicked the PAT and the Pioneers were within four at 14-18.

The Zephyrs however weren't concerned and they came back when Schmid connected with junior wide receiver Justin Gominsky who sidled some 31-yards and in for a TD.

Adam Moen made good on the extra point and it pushed the count to 25-14.

Hill-Murray kept pressing toward what they hoped would be a continuation of their season.

Their efforts paid off when Otto gathered in a Bruchu offering and scooted 4-yards for six points.

Bruchu then connected with Czaplewski for a two-point conversion to pull the Pioneers within three, at 22-25.

Down the stretch Hill-Murray kept their faithful in their seats hoping to see the Pioneers come back one more time.

But when the final seconds ticked away, the scoreboard at Higgins Memorial Field read Mahtomedi 25, Hill-Murray 22.

The Pioneers made their way from the field not wanting to believe that suddenly their season had ended.

No longer were they undefeated, but in years to come, they will look back and appreciate the effort they put forth to post an undefeated regular season.

Next up Tartan will continue their quest to gain the State Class AAAAA championship round. They will next travel to Stillwater Nov. 3 to take on the Ponies in a 7 p.m. scheduled game.

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