Colin Wegner of United South Central fends off a Maple River defender on Friday. The Rebels lost 22-21 in overtime. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune
Colin Wegner of United South Central fends off a Maple River defender on Friday. The Rebels lost 22-21 in overtime. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

Gallery: Maple River outlasts USC

Published 1:42pm Saturday, September 21, 2013

WELLS — Maple River demolished its first three opponents with a potent ground game. The Eagles’ closest game was a 35-14 win over Mankato Loyola in Week 1.

However, United South Central’s defense held Maple River on Friday to less than 100 yards rushing.

“We knew they had a good running game, so we played a five-man front for the first time this season,” said USC’s Colten Carlson. “With those guys up front, it left me clean to go left and right.”

In fact, 66 of Maple River’s 97 rushing yards came on one play that resulted in a field goal.

“We wanted to come in and stop the run, and that’s what we did,” USC head coach Brad Huse said.

The Rebels forced the Eagles to take to the air, where they didn’t fare well. Four different USC players grabbed interceptions.

Despite forcing five total turnovers, the Eagles defeated the Rebels 22-21 in overtime.

USC lit up the scoreboard first with a 16-yard scoring run in the first quarter. Maple River scored two minutes later but didn’t convert its extra point, so the Rebels held a 7-6 lead. The score remained the same until the fourth quarter, but the action didn’t stop.

USC defensive lineman and Homecoming king, Steve Voigt, picked off a screen pass. A crushing hit by Dakota Kalis on Maple River quarterback Jay Sohre led to another interception by Cody Nelson, also a defensive lineman, and then both teams traded the ball by throwing picks late in the second quarter.

To start the second half, Maple River surprised USC with an on-side kick. An interception by Dylan Herman stopped the Eagles’ drive, but USC’s next drive stalled.

Maple River’s backfield had been bottled until 26.7 seconds remained in the third quarter. Aaron Trio broke free for a 66-yard run, but USC’s Nate Peterson made a touchdown-saving tackle by catching Trio from behind and dragging him down at the Rebels 9-yard line.

The USC defense forced the Eagles to kick a field goal, and Maple River took its first lead of the game (9-7) with 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter. The Eagles tacked on another field goal because of a fumble recovery at the USC 10-yard line. Maple River led 12-7. The Rebels had eight minutes left to mount a drive and take the lead back.

Quarterback Travis Brown led the Rebels’ down the field with passes to Nate Pederson and Herman. A 39-yard pass to Herman at the 1-yard line set up a Herman rushing score. USC regained the lead 15-12.

“We called a hitch and fly,” Herman said. “Travis threw it up, and I caught it on the side of my helmet. The guy tipped it, it went over to my other hand, and I happened to hold onto it.”

With less than three minutes left, the Rebels appeared to be headed to victory.

“When there’s no score for two quarters, you think, ‘Now you’ve got it, all you need to do is play defense,’” Huse said.

USC’s defense kept Maple River out of the end zone, but the Eagles kicked the game-tying field goal as time expired.

In overtime, the Rebels scored first, but the extra point was blocked. Maple River scored on a fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard-line, and the extra point to win the game was good.

Next, USC (1-3) will play at Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity at 7 p.m. Friday.

“We’ve got to go hard this next week and get better,” Herman said. “We’ll be motivated after this.”