Coon Rapids-Bayard quarterback Keaton Schlatter threw 53 passes in last Wednesday’s Eight-Man state playoff game against Fremont-Mills.
None was bigger than the senior’s 26-yard dart to Caylor Deeth with 9:21 to go in the game. The touchdown toss proved to be the game-winner for the No. 3 seed Crusaders in a 45-34 upset of the defending state champion Knights in front of a reporter-estimated 400 fans on a frigid night in Tabor.
“Our defense worked out for a while but if you give them enough time they’re going to hit it. That’s a part of football,” said Fremont-Mills coach Jeremy Christiansen after the game.
Schlatter completed less than 50 percent of his passes (26-of-53) but six of his completions went for touchdowns and he didn’t throw an interception.
From the start the Crusaders and Schlatter wanted to challenge the Knights’ corners and their physical bump-and-run coverage. The Knight defense held tight on their first two possessions, not allowing a completion or a yard in a pair of three-and-outs.
The Crusaders finally broke through with their first of two first-quarter touchdowns when Schlatter found Spencer Winnett on a crossing route that went for a 27-yard touchdown. After another three-and-out by the Knights, Coon Rapids-Bayard drove from their own 14-yard-line on a seven-play scoring drive capped by Deeth’s 39-yard catch and run. The Crusaders would miss the extra-point attempt.
Playing without quarterback Austin Switzer, who broke his arm in the regular season finale, the Knights’ offense struggled early. With Switzer in street clothes on the sideline, the Knights turned to Broc Hansen, a 5-foot-8, 130-pound sophomore making his first career start under center, and Clayton Wilson, a senior running back who took snaps from a “wild cat” look for the Knights. Christiansen thought his team showed flashes of clicking but couldn’t sustain its momentum.
“We struggled in the first half up front,” Christiansen said. “I’d say that was probably the difference in the ball game. Anytime you give an offense like that multiple opportunities like that, they’re going to catch something and make big plays. That first half we just couldn’t get the ball moving offensively.”
The Knights opened the game with five straight three-and-outs before gaining their first first down with 10:49 to go in the second quarter. On the same drive, F-M drove 76 yards in four plays on the drive to trim the lead to 13-7 on a 30-yard Wilson to Hansen touchdown toss.
On the ensuing possession the Knights stuffed the Crusader offense, driving them back to their own three-yard line. The Crusaders inexplicably attempted a fake punt on a fourth-and-17 that netted Deeth just seven yards. On the very next play Wilson raced in from 10 yards out to tie the score. The extra-point put F-M up 14-13.
The teams traded punts on their next two possessions before the Crusaders went back ahead on a one-yard Namanny scamper. A Knight turnover on the following possession led to another Crusader score, this time a Schlatter to Winnett touchdown dart.
Coon Rapids-Bayard led 25-14 at the half.
A halftime pep talk and an offensive adjustment keyed a Knight rally after the break.
The Knights came out in a jumbo backfield with 6-foot-2, 230 pound Spencer Phillips at tailback and 215 pound Mark Hall at fulllback. F-M needed just two plays to trim the lead to 20-25 on Phillips’ 40-yard touchdown scamper. Phillips overcame a pulled groin muscle to run for a career-high 166 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries.
After a Crusader three-and-out, the Knights marched 70 yards in six plays to take a 28-25 lead on Hall’s diving touchdown plunge.
“We got things taken care of for a while but I just thought we had too much of a deficit,” Christiansen said.
Down three, the Crusaders refused to fold to the defending Eight-Man state champions.
Two possessions later, Schlatter connected with Deeth from 44 yards out to go up 31-28 with just over two minutes remaining in the third quarter.
On the ensuing possession the Knights went up 34-31 on Hall’s second touchdown run early in the fourth quarter.
With the Crusader offense clicking, Schlatter connected with four different receivers on a seven play, 65-yard scoring drive that turned out to be the game-winner. Schlatter found Deeth racing wide-open across the field on a crossing route for his third touchdown catch of the
of the night, this time from 26 yards out, on the drive.
The Knights didn’t have an answer on its next drive, punting the ball after a penalty put them behind schedule and gaining just five yards.
Schlatter and the Crusaders’ responded with clinching touchdown toss to Winnett with just over seven minutes to go.
In a game that saw seven lead changes, the Knights couldn’t force and eighth switch over the final 7:21. F-M turned the ball over on each of its final three possessions to end the game and their repeat hopes.
Christiansen spent 15 minutes after the game hugging and consoling his dejected team. The Knights had lost just three games in the last three seasons.
“I told the kids football is a great sport and they put their heart and soul into it,” he said. “This senior class is probably the winningist in school history. It obviously hurts when things don’t go right and you learn from your mistakes.”
FM - 00 14 20 00 34
CR-B - 13 12 06 14 45
CR-B – Spencer Winnett, 27 pass from Keaton Schlatter (kick good).
CR-B – Caylor Deeth, 39 pass from Keaton Schlatter (kick blocked).
FM – Broc Hansen, 30 pass from Clayton Wilson (kick good).
FM – Wilson, 11 run (kick good).
CR-B – Logan Namanny, 1 run (kick failed).
CR-B – Winnett, 14 pass from Schlatter (kick blocked).
FM – Spencer Phillips, 43 run (kick failed).
FM – Mark Hall, 2 run (two-point conversion good).
CR-B – Deeth, 20 pass from Schlatter (kick failed).
FM – Hall, 1 run (kick failed).
CR-B – Deeth, 26 pass from Schlatter (kick good).
CR-B – Winnett, 1 pass from Schlatter (kick good).