GRANADA - Trailing 30-28 with just a little more than a minute left to play in the Section 2, Nine-Man semifinal, Madelia's Riley Benzel caught a Kyle Schultz pass and ran for the game-winning touchdown to help the Blackhawks edge the Granada-Huntley-East Chain/Truman Jaguars, 36-30, on Saturday in Granada.
No. 3-seeded Madelia (8-2) advances to face No. 1-seeded Nicollet in the sectional championship game at 7 p.m. Friday night in Nicollet. The Raiders advanced by downing Randolph, 48-8, Saturday.
The No. 2-seeded Jaguars finished the season with a 6-4 record.
UPFIELD BLOCKING — Granada-Huntley-East Chain/Truman running back C.J. Hodge (7) follows the blocking of Jaguar teammates Logan Pytleski (62) and Jake Wolter against Madelia’s Jack Bergeman during Section 2, Nine-Man semifinal football action Saturday in Granada. (Photo by Leanna Becker)
"I have never, in all my 28 years of coaching, been a part of a game that was so much back-and-forth," said Madelia head coach Terry Arduser. "That was two teams that really wanted to win bad, and it came down to who had the ball last."
After the Blackhawks entered halftime with a 28-8 lead, the Jaguars roared back in the second half to take their first lead of the game with 9:02 left in the fourth quarter.
From there, the teams traded possessions and the Blackhawks got the ball back with 1:25 left in the game.
Schultz, who completed 15 of 30 passes for 235 yards, sailed his first pass of Madelia's drive for an incompletion.
With second down and 10 on their own 36, the Blackhawks were flagged for an illegal motion, before Schultz fired another incomplete pass on second-and-15.
After an incompletion on third-and-15 with about one minute left, the Jaguars hoped that they might pull off the second-half comeback.
But Schultz found Benzel on fourth-and-15 on a slant pass over the middle and Benzel raced the length of the field for the 69-yard touchdown to take the 34-30 edge.
Schultz then found the 6-foot-5 Jake Denn in the back of the end zone for the 2-point conversion and a six-point lead.
The Jaguars tried to mount a drive with the remaining 59.5 seconds, but Benzel made an interception on a fourth-and-16 pass to ice the win.
Jaguar quarterback Josh Wolter, who ran 12 times for 26 yards in the game, and freshman Zayne Engel sparked the home team's second-half surge.
Engel, who made an interception and blocked a punt, also recovered a fumble on the Blackhawks' second drive of the second half to give the Jaguars a first down on Madelia's 11.
From there, C.J. Hodge, who had 10 carries for 43 yards, ran for five on the opening play. Jake Wolter then carried the ball on back-to-back plays for four yards, before Josh Wolter was able to pound through the line for the 2-yard TD.
Hodge then plowed his way through the pile for the 2-point conversion to cut the deficit to 28-16 with 1:56 left in the third quarter.
"I thought that we responded well in the second half," said Granada-Huntley-East Chain/Truman head coach Lee Dallager. "We didn't make any huge adjustments at half or anything, but we came out and believed in ourselves."
On the ensuing Madelia drive, running back Derrick Van Hee, who ran 13 times for a game-high 75 yards, fumbled and Jaguar defender Travis Kroon recovered.
"Our defense really made big plays for us in the second half. The fumble recoveries and the blocked punt - they gave us a chance to be right back in it again," said Dallager.
When the Jaguars took over on the Blackhawks' 27, Hodge and Josh Wolter both took turns running for eight yards making it first and 10 on Madelia's 12.
Jake Wolter gained five, before the Jaguars drew the Blackhawks offsides for the first down. From the 2, Jake Wolter raced around the edge for the TD to make it 28-22.
The Jaguar defense then held the Blackhawks to a three-and-out, when Engel reached up and blocked the Madelia punt.
GHEC/Truman took over on the Blackhawks' 8 before Jared Green, who ran 12 times for 45 yards, gained six yards, but a holding penalty moved the Jaguars back to the 14.
Josh Wolter then scrambled and switched directions, weaved his way through defenders and found the end zone to take a 30-28 lead with 9:02 left in the game.
Benzel made three catches for 99 yards, while Bergeman had five for 80 yards to top Madelia. Ryan Shumski caught three passes for 31 to top the Jaguars.
Madelia 8 20 0 8 - 36
GHECT 8 0 8 14 - 30
M - Derrick Van Hee 37 run (Kyle Schultz run), 6:57.
G - Jared Green 75 yard kickoff return (Josh Johanson pass from Josh Wolter), 6:47.
M - Schultz 2 run (run failed), 11:55.
M - Jack Bergeman 54 yard pass from Schultz (run fail), 2:51.
M - Jake Denn 22 yard pass from Schultz (Bergeman pass from Schultz), 0:00.
G - Josh Wolter 6 run (C.J. Hodge run), 1:56.
G - Jake Wolter 2 run (pass failed), 11:22.
G - Josh Wolter 14 run (Josh Wolter run), 9:02.
M - Riley Benzel 82 yard pass from Schultz (Denn pass from Schultz), 59.5.
Offense: Rushing: GHEC/T 44-147; Madelia 25-134. Passing (Comp-Att-Int-Yards): Madelia 15-30-1-235; GHEC/T 5-15-3-25. Penalties: GHEC/T 8-50; Madelia 5-27. Fumbles-lost: GHEC/T 2-1; Madelia 3-2.
Offense: Rushing: Derrick Van Hee (M) 13-75; Kyle Schultz (M) 10-54; Jared Green (GHEC/T) 12-45; C.J. Hodge (GHEC/T) 10-43. Passing: Schultz (M) 15-30-1-235; Josh Wolter (GHEC/T) 5-15-3-25. Receiving: Riley Benzel (M) 3-99; Jack Bergeman (M) 5-80; Ryan Shumski (GHEC/T) 3-31; Jake Denn 4-30.
Defense: Interceptions: Jake Denn (M); Schultz (M); Benzel (M); Zayne Engel (GHEC/T). Fumble Recoveries: Engel (GHEC/T), Travis Kroon (GHEC/T); Van Hee (M). Blocked Punt: Engel (GHEC/T).