This had been a long time in the making for the Milaca football team’s senior class.
“Ever since the first day of fourth grade football, we knew we wanted to make it to the state tournament and get on our banner,” said Jack Schoenborn, currently a senior and starting running back for the Wolves varsity program.
Now, years later, Milaca accomplished that goal by defeating the Foley Falcons via a 42-22 score on Nov. 4 in the Section 5AAA Championship at the neutral site of St. Cloud Tech High School.
“It took every single one of us. There’s no I in team, it was all of us,” said Schoenborn, who had four touchdowns in the win, on the state-clinching victory over the rival to the west.
Favored to take home the victory over the upset-minded Falcons, the seventh seed in the section, a fast start was needed to quickly put away the thoughts of knocking off the top seed in Milaca.
The Wolves executed that plan to near perfection as after an empty opening possession, a rushing touchdown by Schoenborn followed by a Dylan Greninger pass to Peyton Hunt in their next two times with the ball, drained a large chunk of clock to push the game to a lead 15-0 in favor of the Milaca with 3:14 to go in the opening half.
“We knew they were going to come out and be tough, there’s a reason why they got to this point,” said Milaca coach Craig Talberg. “We knew our guys would have to get after it right away and they did,” he added, continuing a trend of strong starts that has been demonstrated all season long.
Following the back to back scores by Milaca, the Falcons did answer thanks to a big passing play to set up an Evan Miller rushing score to cut the lead to 15-8 with 1:28 to go in the half.
Milaca used the time efficiently, marching down the field to push back ahead by two scores thanks to another Schoenborn TD on the ground, making it 21-8 into the half.
The late score into the break led to a dominating start to the second half where the Wolves banked the first 21 points, keyed by Peyton Hunt.
A score to start the half after Greninger hit Owen VanderPlaats for an improbable touchdown catch by the senior for a 28-8 advantage followed Hunt stepping up defensively.
Two interceptions in the quarter by Hunt each led to scores for Milaca to balloon the lead to 42-8 early in the fourth quarter. By the time Foley retaliated, with two late TDs, the game had been all but over as the Wolves coasted to the 20-point victory in front a big Milaca fandom.
“It’s awesome to see everyone out here and getting behind us,” said Talberg on the showing by the Wolves faithful.
Schoenborn powered the Milaca offense with 164 yards and four touchdowns while Greninger completed seven of 11 passes for 119 yards and two scores. Hunt and Owen VanderPlaats caught the passing scores by Greninger. Hunt also added two interceptions as he had his fingerprints all over the victory for the Wolves.
Hunt’s big night may not have happened if it wasn’t for some convincing to return to the gridiron by some fellow seniors.
“Everyone was trying to get me to rejoin football and for my senior year, ‘I thought why not?’ Might as well go have fun. I didn’t care how much I played, or whatever. I just wanted to be with the guys,” said Hunt, who helped the Wolves to just their second state appearance in school history, first since 2010.
“I knew we had something special here and I am glad we took advantage of opportunity.”
Milaca moved to 9-1 on the year, ending Foley’s season at 3-8.
Now, after punching their ticket to the Minnesota High School League’s Class AAA State Tournament, the Wolves will prepare for a rematch.
Up next for Milaca will be the second match up of the season against New London-Spicer. The Wildcats set up the contest by getting past Albany, 20-14 in overtime for the Section 6AAA Championship.
Suffering a 44-36 loss to the Wildcats back on Oct. 7 at Claffy Field, limiting Mason Delzer and New London-Spicer’s running attack will be key as Delzer totaled five scores while the team rushed for over 200 yards in the Milaca loss. The Wildcats come into the game at 8-2.
Milaca and New London-Spicer will play Thursday, Nov. 10 at Elk River High School. The game is slated to kickoff at 7 p.m. at the neutral location.
If able to get past the Wildcats, the Wolves will move on to U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis for their next game as they would play the winner of Cannon Falls and Watertown-Mayer on Nov. 19 at 4:30 p.m.