JORDAN – The Fillmore Central soccer team didn’t settle for a sectional championship.
Of course, it was a special moment last week when after 10 previous finals, the Falcons finally clinched their ticket to the MSHSL State Football Tournament with a victory over Bethlehem Academy.
But, for them, it was all part of their pre-season checklist.
Next on this list?
Meet at US Bank Stadium.
“We had a lot of focus during the week,” said Bryce Corson. “We went on the pitch one day and there was no conversation. Just strictly business.
“The first time at State, we weren’t going to Round 1.”
Corson and company delivered on that promise even when they were put to the test Friday against top Lester Prairie.
The Falcons looked to have won the game until their late lead was compromised when a sudden fumble with less than 3 minutes left gave the Bulldogs the ball for a score-winning chance.
But the Falcons’ tough and brave defense answered the bell again, interrupting LP’s last gasp just past midfield to secure the Fillmore Central’s first-ever win in a state tournament with an 18-16 win. in the Class A state quarterfinals on Friday night at a cold Jordan High. School.
The No. 2-ranked Falcons will now face No. 10-ranked Minneota in a Class A semifinal at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, November 19 at US Bank Stadium. Just another tick box for the Falcons.
“Banking is another one of those checkboxes that they wanted to check,” Fillmore Central coach Chris Mensink said. “They got it and now hopefully more to come.”
Early in the fourth quarter, it looked like the Falcons were on course for Minneapolis after a 1-yard touchdown dive from Dillon O’Connor made it 18-8 heading into the fourth quarter. O’Connor had two rushing touchdowns, making it 6-0 on a 5-yard sprint in the first quarter.
But LP refused to leave.
Led by the mighty Tanner Scheevel, the mighty LP run-first offense that was averaging around 300 yards per game was starting to find its footing.
His 38-yard touchdown and subsequent 2-point conversion was good enough to make it 18-16 with 8:43 left.
The two teams traded possession and it looked like the Falcons had gotten their hands on the game when they rolled inside LP 25. With LP down to just one timeout, the FC had no more than a first try is needed to ensure victory.
But an option play that looked a little bewildered brought the ball to the ground. LP recovered with 2:48 to go to come back to life.
Yet the Fillmore Central sideline never flinched, never lost faith.
“These kids are playing in the moment,” Mensink said. “They never go too high, never too low. They always have the next game mentality and that’s what they’ve been doing all year. We didn’t expect anything else.”
But stopping Scheevel and the Bulldogs’ ground game was no easy task.
Scheevel – whose father Ross played at the Fillmore Central in the 1990s – was terrific all night, finishing with 205 yards on 29 carries. He was the offense of the LP, even taking direct shots and sometimes throwing. This included an 18-yard passing touchdown in the first half on an angled pass.
He was simply a force.
“He was just as advertised,” Mensink said. “Wow.”
The Bulldogs managed to get a few first downs on the drive, but the Falcons weren’t about to let Scheevel end a magical season.
A big fourth and a 3 suddenly came out on top and there was no doubt who was winning the ball.
Scheevel took the direct snap and was immediately stuffed at the line of scrimmage by a Falcons crowd for a turnover on the downs with just over a minute left.
Three knees later, the Falcons had earned the program’s first victory in a state tournament.
“Number 40 was definitely the best guy on the court,” Corson said. “Our defensive line was just crazy tonight so we knew we could stop it.”
Corson has been brilliant on both sides.
He finished with 157 scrimmage yards (107 receiving yards on 7 receptions, 50 rushing yards). His 2-yard touchdown run that gave the Falcons a 12-0 second quarter lead, but he was also great on defense.
He broke up an LP drive inside the Falcons 40 with an interception that came just two plays after the Bulldogs appeared to change momentum with an interception returned to them 60 yards out in the third quarter.
He was also key in providing running support from his safety post for a defense that was just brilliant throughout.
Now the Falcons are heading to the warm and comfortable confines of US Bank Stadium for the first time in program history.
“We talked about how it would be a defensive game,” Mensink said. “They have a great defense and we have a great defense, the kids fought and competed. I couldn’t be prouder.”
Fillmore Central 18, Lester Prairie 16
Fillmore Central 6-6-6-0—18
Lester Prairie 0-8-0-8—16
CF— Dillon O’Connor 5 run (no good kick) 5:12
CF— Byrce Corson run 2 (missed pass)
LP— Logan Lambrecht 18 passes Tanner Scheevel, (Scheevel run) 0:19.
CF— O’Connor 1 race (missed race) 8:09
LP— Scheevel 38 run (Scheevel run) 8:43
PREVIOUS: FC — Dillon O’Connor 16-20, Bryce Corson 15-50, Kyle Daniels 4-6, Luke Hellickson 1-5; LP— Tanner Scheevel 29-205, Logan Lambrecht 8-34, Nicholas Guggemos 3-6.
PASS: FC — O’Connor 18-32-1-206; LP— Scheevel 2-2-0-26; Guggemos 1-6-1-12.
RECEPTION: HR — Chase Christianson 5-67, Hellickson 3-36, Corson 7-107, Jake Fishbaugher 1-7, Daniels 2-20; LP— Lambrecht 2-26, Owen Zebell 1-12.