With a four-touchdown lead in the second quarter, the O’Gorman Knights were already in the driver’s seat, but Aberdeen Central drove inside the hosts’ 10-yard line, and a score could’ve potentially given the Golden Eagles some life going into the break.
An Eagles pass bounced off a Central receiver and a Knight defender, but just before it fell to the ground Luke Fritsch dove to snag the ball for the interception, ending the Aberdeen threat, but forcing the Knights to start at their own 1-yard line.
O’Gorman promptly drove 99 yards for six, with Fritsch finding Jack Peery on an 8-yard touchdown strike that gave the Knights a five touchdown advantage just before half.
The Knights would go on to win by a final of 50-19, so to say that swing of momentum before halftime made a huge difference might be a stretch, but it did illustrate just how dominant O’Gorman was in its 11AAA playoff opener. Just when it looked like they might be leaving the door open a crack, they slammed it shut.
Football roundup: Playoff Edition
“In a scenario like that where the defense is bending but doesn’t want to break, a stop like that just gives us all the confidence in the world,” said Fritsch, who was only in the game on defense because of injuries to Hunter Thompson and Ryan Scholten. “That kind of play by the defense creates momentum that just rolls into the offense. We wanted to put up more points going into the half and when we did it we were feeling pretty good.”
It capped a productive half for Fritsch, who was the star on both sides of the ball in his final career game at McEneaney Field. He added two rushing touchdowns to his pass to Peery before half, and the interception to kill AC’s drive was his second of the game.
By game’s end, the senior had 110 of his team’s 354 rushing yards, and completed all five of his pass attempts for 49 yards. With Dody Makwinja adding 83 yards, Boston Bauer 70, Antonio Casiello 55 and Andrew Reuter 16, with each of those four scoring touchdowns, it was an exhibition in why the Knights (8-2) are a very real candidate to capture a championship in the state’s highest class.
“We’re really good offensively and we executed really well,” said O’Gorman coach Steve Kueter. “But we were concerned (defensively). We’re short on defensive backs and (Aberdeen) can really throw the ball well. When you don’t get practice time – even though Luke and Boston are good athletes, they didn’t have a lot of reps (on defense) so that was a concern, but they did a nice job.”
Fritsch opened the scoring with a 1-yard run that made it 7-0, and a five-yard run by Bauer made it 14-0. Fritsch’s first interception of the day on defense set up a Makwinja touchdown run of four yards that made it 21-0, and Fritsch sprinted 56 yards for a score to make it 28-0.
High school football playoff final scores
The Eagles were able to go out with their heads held high, outscoring the Knights 19-0 in the final quarter, with Gabe Swanson firing touchdown passes to Mason Flakus and Thomas Krueger, and Flakus throwing a 23-yard touchdown to Casey Hermansen on fourth and long.
Still, O’Gorman’s defense held the Eagles to just 37 yards rushing, and the damage Central (3-7) did in the fourth quarter came against the second unit. As well as Fritsch played on defense, Kueter made clear he doesn’t want his quarterback going both ways next week if he doesn’t have to, which might sadden the senior standout.
“I hope it looked like I was having fun, because I was,” Fritsch said. “I almost forgot how much fun it was to be out there.”
With the win, the Knights advance to face a Roosevelt team that spent much of the year ranked No. 1 in the state but finds itself ravaged by injuries. Fritsch says his team is confident and hungry, and the coach thinks they took the necessary steps this week to be ready.
“We’ve been improving every week,” Kueter said. “I’m sure Roosevelt has been, too. It’s going to be a great matchup like it always is.”