Pirates can't stop Mahnomen-Waubun's methodical attack in 34-12 loss
Up until Monday, the Crookston football team thought it was playing Barnesville in its final regular season game.
But as it turns out, two teams — Mahnomen-Waubun and Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta — were looking for games this week to fill open spots on their schedule. So after a flurry of scheduling moves, the Trojans were headed to Morris to take on the Tigers, and the Pirates were matched up with the Thunderbirds.
Once the news came in, Crookston barely had any practice time to prepare for its new opponent. Coach Scott Butt, though, thought that made little difference.
"We exchanged film and then we basically had one day to get ready," Butt said. "We gotta be able to overcome, and it is what it is. It was definitely equal. They had a day, we had a day."
And all things being equal, Mahnomen-Waubun is the No. 2 team in Class A.
Tanner Pazdernik ran for 134 yards and three touchdowns and threw for 87 and another score, leading the undefeated Thunderbirds to a 34-12 win over the Pirates on a snowy Wednesday night at Ed Widseth Field.
For Crookston (1-5), it was tough sledding from the beginning. Mahnomen-Waubun (5-0) went to work on the ground, going 41 yards in seven plays to set up a 15-yard run by Pazdernik midway through the first quarter. It went 44 yards on its next possession to score again, and Will Starkey punched it in from short distance.
"Some things I thought we did a really good job of picking up, and some things we didn't do so well," said Butt, who refused to make any excuses regarding the game being scheduled so recently. "It's one of those things where we just gotta keep battling."
That's what running back Ethan Boll did the possession after Starkey's score. The sophomore took a direct snap up the middle, slipped through a few tackles and reached the second level, accelerating down the right sideline and leaving every Thunderbird in the dust.
Boll's 60-yard touchdown run, which cut the score to 14-6, was by far the Pirates' longest play from scrimmage this season and ensured that the game would, at least temporarily, remain up for grabs.
"He's doing a pretty good job of running patient," Butt said of Boll, who finished with 130 yards on 26 carries. "He runs extremely hard, and that's the number one thing I like. He doesn't give up."
Early in the second quarter, Boll caught a pass in the flat from junior Brooks Butt and took it into Mahnomen-Waubun territory. Three plays later, though, Payton Keezer picked off Butt to end the threat.
If there was a moment the game swung firmly back into Thunderbird hands, it was then. Mahnomen-Waubun chipped off a series of short gains before Pazdernik hit Keezer for a big passing gain on fourth down. He scored his second touchdown two plays later to cap off a six-minute drive.
Butt thought his team did plenty of good things on defense. Crookston forced and recovered four fumbles, and just eight of the Thunderbirds' 63 plays went for longer than 10 yards.
The ones that did, though, seemed to come at the worst possible moments. Pazdernik, who fooled the Pirates with option keepers all night, led a 71-yard drive in the third quarter and essentially put the game out of reach with a 29-yard scoring run. In the fourth quarter, he added a passing touchdown to his tally, hitting a wide-open Cooper Houdek on a 44-yard strike to make it 34-6.
"We can't have times where we just take a break," Butt said. "Some times, I don't know if we lose focus or what. We're not overly huge, so we get manhandled at times, but we have to find that consistency and that's where I think our problem comes in."
Butt was more impressed with how Crookston didn't seem to give up. It caught a lucky break when Jaxon Wang's punt smacked off the back of an inattentive Thunderbird and Braxton Volker (So.) recovered, setting up a 6-yard touchdown run by Boll. The Pirates recovered another fumble with a minute to play and Butt completed three passes to get into the red zone, although they were unable to score.
To Butt, that mini-push — even with the game deep into garbage time — is something they can hang their hat on.
"The number one thing I've learned about our team is that they're battlers," he said. "... No matter where you are in the playoffs, we could come out and we're gonna battle, and who knows what could happen."
UP NEXT: The Pirates will now await their seeding in the Section 8AA playoffs. The quarterfinals are set for Tuesday, Nov. 17, with the semifinals on Saturday, Nov. 21. The final will be held Friday, Nov. 27 at the Fargodome.
Unlike previous years, QRF — a formula created by Minnesota-Scores.net that most sections use to seed teams for the playoffs — will not play a role. If QRF were a factor this year, Crookston would be in line to earn the No. 6 seed and travel to third-seeded Hawley. Instead, the quarterfinal matchups will come down to a coaches' vote this Friday.
"With the QRF, you were kind of able to figure out who you're gonna play," Butt said. "This year, it's just hard to say."
Regardless, Butt plans to start preparing his team for potential opponents as soon as possible. Judging by the current section standings, Pelican Rapids and Warroad, along with the Nuggets, appear to be plausible matchups for the Pirates.
7:06 first quarter (Mahnomen-Waubun): Tanner Pazdernik 15-yard run (Dennis Ashley run)
3:11 first quarter (Mahnomen-Waubun): Will Starkey 2-yard run (pass failed)
2:56 first quarter (Crookston): Ethan Boll 60-yard run (run failed)
3:12 second quarter (Mahnomen-Waubun): Tanner Pazdernik 5-yard run (Tanner Pazdernik run)
3:12 third quarter (Mahnomen-Waubun): Tanner Pazdernik 29-yard run (run failed)
7:59 fourth quarter (Mahnomen-Waubun): Cooper Houdek 44-yard pass from Tanner Pazdernik (run failed)
2:42 fourth quarter (Crookston): Ethan Boll 6-yard run (run failed)
- Crookston: Brooks Butt 6-14-1, 56 yards, Gunnar Gunderson 0-2, 0 yards
- Mahnomen-Waubun: Tanner Pazdernik 3-6, 87 yards, 1 touchdown
- Crookston: Ethan Boll 26-130-2, Gunnar Gunderson 2-6, Hunter Knutson 1-2, Jaxon Wang 1-(-2), Team 1-(-1)
- Mahnomen-Waubun: Tanner Pazdernik 28-134-3, Will Starkey 8-37-1, Payton Keezer 1-20, Dennis Ashley 6-19, Tony Swalef 4-12, Houston Short 2-10, John Refshaw 1-6, Dustin Rock 1-5, Cooper Houdek 1-3, Curt Bellefeuille 1-3, Carter Clark 2-1, Team 2-0
- Crookston: Alex Longoria 1-25, Zach Brown 4-18, Ethan Boll 1-13
- Mahnomen-Waubun: Cooper Houdek 1-44-1, Payton Keezer 2-43
- Crookston: Ethan Boll 8.5 tackles, Jaxon Wang 8 (1 TFL, 1 FR), Cade DeLeon 5, Brooks Butt 4, Jaren Bailey 4, Ashton Larson 3.5 (1 FR), Zach Brown 3 (1 PBU), Greg Gonzalez 2.5, Jack Doda 2.5, Alex Longoria 2, Layten Fuentes 2 (0.5 TFL), Ethan Bowman 1.5 (1 FR), Clay Hanson 1.5 (0.5 TFL), Cade Coauette 1, George Widman V 1, Jack Garmen 1, Jacob Hesby 1, Tatum Lubinski 1, Braxton Volker 1 FR
- Mahnomen-Waubun: Payton Keezer 1 INT, Sam Bellanger 1 FR
- Total yardage: Crookston 191, Mahnomen-Waubun 337
- First downs: Crookston 5, Mahnomen-Waubun 14
- Third-down conversions: Crookston 3-12, Mahnomen-Waubun 4-11
- Fourth-down conversions: Crookston 2-6, Mahnomen-Waubun 4-6
- Punting: Crookston 2-45, Mahnomen-Waubun 0-0
- Penalties: Crookston 5-25, Mahnomen-Waubun 3-15
- Turnovers: Crookston 1 interception, 1 fumbles lost, Mahnomen-Waubun 4 fumbles lost
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