LeRoy-Ostrander on to state

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 8, 2002

Verndale football coach Mike Mahlen came away from the Section 1 9-man football final in LeRoy with only one name -- Ben Adams.

The coach of the second-ranked Raiders football team had a thorough scouting report full of plays, notes, jersey numbers and rosters after watching the LeRoy-Ostrander Cardinals come away with a 49-34 state-qualifying victory over Grand Meadow last Saturday. With all the information layed out in front of him, Adams came to the forefront.

"We learned that Ben Adams is one heck of a running back," Mahlen said in anticipation of today's 1 p.m. state quarterfinal match with L-O in Verndale. "He's a horse back there, and he had a heck of a game against Grand Meadow."

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Adams got stronger as the game got longer, helping the fifth-ranked Cardinals come back from a touchdown deficit entering the fourth quarter and capture their fourth straight Section 1 title. He had 173 of his 231 rushing yards and four of his five touchdowns in the second half, including three touchdowns and 81 yards in the fourth quarter alone.

Grand Meadow simply could not keep up, and Verndale's coach took notice.

"Adams had an incredible fourth quarter," Mahlen said. "He's an excellent back."

Adams also had five touchdowns against Grand Meadow in the 2001 Section 1 finals.

Raiders return to state

Mahlen's Verndale Raiders (10-0) will be making the school's 11th state tournament appearance at home this afternoon after missing out in 2001. The Raiders lost to Underwood in the Section 4 semifinals last year, falling short of their secondary goal of reaching Fargodome, after beating the Rockets in the last game of the regular season.

"Each year we're shooting for the conference title, and then the section title, and then the state title," Mahlen said. "We missed out on the Fargodome last year, which is a pretty big deal in itself. That gave us a little more incentive to get their this season.

"Last year those kids went through that, and obviously they remembered the year before. Even though you beat a team in the regular season, you have to do it again."

Verndale defeated an undefeated Isle team in the Section 4 finals last Thursday night in Fargo to reach the first round of the state 9-man field. The Raiders have made it to state seven of the last 10 years, including a class championship in 1997.

"It never gets old," Mahlen said. "This looks like it will be an equally matched game."

Verndale features a running offense that has the ability to pound the ball down it's opponent's throat, resulting this season in an undefeated Pheasant Conference record (8-0).

"That was a little bit of a surprise to me, our conference is pretty tough," Mahlen said. "To go through it undefeated doesn't happen very often."

The highlight of the Raiders' regular season was a 36-18 victory over Chokio-Alberta/Herman-Norcross in which Verndale trailed 12-0. Coach Mahlen said he learned a lot about his team in that win against an eventual state qualifier. CAHN (8-2) or third-ranked Nicollet (10-0) will be the semifinal matchup for today's winner when the state tournament resumes next Friday at 8 a.m. at the Metrodome.

Call Ross Thede at 434-2234 or e-mail him at :mailto:sports@austindailyherald.com.

9-man state football

Friday, Nov. 8

LeRoy-Ostrander (9-1) at Verndale (10-0), 1 p.m.

Tower-Soudan (10-0) at Climax-Fisher (10-1), 3 p.m.

Chokio-Alberta (8-2) at Nicollet (10-0), 5 p.m.

Cherry (9-1) at Stephen-Argyle (9-0), 7 p.m.

Thursday, Nov. 14

Cherry/Stephen-Argyle vs. Tower-Soudan/Climax-Fisher, 8 a.m.

Friday, Nov. 15

LeRoy-Ostrander/Verndale vs. Chokio-Alberta/Nicollet, 8 a.m.

Saturday, Nov. 23

State championship, 8 a.m.