October 19, 2022 at 3:54 p.m.
Team wins border battle over Melrose, 13-7
Often times in football the team that has the advantage in the turnover category wins the game and that was the case last Friday night when Sauk Centre took down their neighboring rival, Melrose.
The Streeters forced four turnovers while committing just one of their own, and held off the Dutchmen winning 13-7 Oct. 14 in Melrose.
“You have to win the turnover battle,” said Head Coach Charlie Warring. “The defense forced them by either stripping the ball or knocking it loose. We’ve been working on that. We took care of business. Everything wasn’t pretty and efficient, but we did what we had to do.”
Sauk Centre had one interception and three fumble recoveries, none bigger than when linebacker Eli Fletcher poked the ball free from a Melrose ball carrier and cornerback Hunter Danielson gathered it and raced 65 yards down the Melrose sideline for a touchdown.
“The play before I stripped the ball, I noticed the other team wasn’t carrying the ball securely,” Fletcher said. “The next play he was running to my right and I decided to go for a punch with my right arm. I got all ball and the next thing I know Hunter was running it back.”
The touchdown broke a 0-0 tie and fired up the Streeter sidelines.
“It took a fortunate bounce,” Warring said. “It went right to Hunter and he knew what to do with it. A play like that energizes a team.”
Sauk Centre’s fortunes continued on Melrose’s next possession, when Melrose made another mistake and fumbled. The ball was recovered by defensive end, Matthew Warring. The Streeters capitalized on the turnover and scored early in the fourth quarter, when Fletcher snuck inside the pylon with a 7-yard touchdown to increase the Streeters advantage to 13-0.
“A one score lead is never safe,” Warring said. “They are capable, they have kids that can make some plays and they are a good football team. Melrose played physical.”
The Dutchmen’s lone score came with just over four minutes left in the game, on a 1-yard touchdown run, from runningback Lucas Feldewerd.
Melrose got the ball back with just over a minute left in the game but the Streeter defense slammed the door on any possible comeback stopping the Dutchmen in four plays near midfield.
“We did get some pressure on them,” Warring said. “On many of the passes we forced their quarterback to have to throw on the run and hurry a little bit. There wasn’t a lot of open wide receivers. It was a combination of things.”
Fletcher had an interception in the first half and corner back Reece Blondin had a fumble recovery as well for the victors.
“The interception Fletcher had, he dropped into a zone and read the quarterbacks eyes and stepped in front of the receiver,” Warring said. “That’s how a linebacker should drop and read the quarterback.”
Fellow linebackers, Nathan Lahr and Owen Christians also had terrific games for Sauk Centre. Lahr had several tackles and helped stop a Melrose drive with a sack and Christians had several tackles out in space.
“Twice they tried to run a screen pass and if he (Owen) didn’t make those plays their running backs were going to get big yards,” Warring said.
Offensively, Sauk Centre had a couple drives stall near the Melrose goal line. In the first quarter they had a 17 play, 9-minute drive end at the Melrose 14-yard line. The same situation happened in the fourth quarter.
“We know we should have potentially a couple more touchdowns but we didn’t,” Warring said. “Give the kids credit they stayed mentally tough.”
Sauk Centre finished their winning night with 11 first downs and 199 total yards, including 34 carries for 108 yards.
“They (Melrose) are pretty big and physical inside and our line was working their tails off,” Warring said. “They were bringing a variety of blitzes to key on people.”
Warring threw for 91 yards and connected with four different receivers, Lahr, Blondin, Danielson and Austin Helgeson.
Melrose had 211 yards rushing and 249 total yards but committed the four costly turnovers.
“When you have two good teams going at it, it’s going to be a battle,” Warring said. “We had to get a stop in the fourth quarter. Hopefully that experience pays dividends when we make it to the playoffs. They moved the ball but turnovers have been killing them all year.”
Sauk Centre (4-3) wrapped up their regular season Oct. 19 against Morris Area. The game summary will be posted online Thursday.
The Section 6AA playoffs start Oct. 25 and continue Oct. 29 and Nov. 4. The top two seeds will receive byes. The championship will be at the Fargo Dome. A Sauk Centre win over Morris Area would likely ensure a second seed and a bye. If they lose, they could drop to the fourth seed in the 6-team bracket. Osakis will likely be the top seed. Joining those two in the section are Wadena-Deer Creek, Staples Motley, Pillager and West Central Area.
“We need to care of ourselves and let the chips fall where they do,” Warring said. “Bottom line is you are going to have to play good football.”
SC 0 0 7 6--13
M 0 0 0 7--7
(SC) Danielson 65-yard fumble return (Fletcher kick)
(SC) Fletcher 7-yard touchdown run (extra point failed)
(M) Feldewerd 1-yard touchdown run (extra point kick)
Individual stats: Passing, Warring 9-16-91; rushing, Fletcher 22-68, Warring 12-40; receiving, Danielson 4-56, Helgeson 3-16, Blondin 1-11, Nathan Lahr 1-8; fumble recovery, Blondin, Danielson, Warring; int. Fletcher.