Whether on the football field or basketball court, Caleb Nurnberger has a flair for big plays in big games.
The junior from Staples-Motley helped the Cardinals' football team to the Section 6-3A semifinals by rushing for 765 yards and 14 touchdowns. He's also led the resurgent Cardinals basketball team to three straight road wins, including a 55-54 upset victory over then fourth-ranked Pequot Lakes Jan. 30.
Nurnberger led the Cardinals with 26 points in that game and led them again with 23 in an 84-44 victory over Albany two days later.
"We went into that Pequot game knowing we had nothing to lose," said Nurnberger. "There was a lot of joy in the locker room afterward. Before the game we had a lot of doubt in ourselves because of their twin towers, but we knew we had a chance. Coach thanked us after for how hard we worked."
The 6-foot guard was the top returning scorer from last year's 4-21 team. He averaged 10 points a game to go with 87 rebounds, 52 steals, 29 assists and six blocked shots.
This season Nurnberger's 17.4 points a game leads the balanced Cardinals who own a 9-8 record. He's also collected 51 rebounds, 42 steals, 29 assists and four blocked shots to go with impressive shooting efficiency of 56.1 percent from the field and 46.7 percent from the arc.
"I think he's probably one of the most explosive kids around," said Cardinals head coach Lynn Peterson. "For us to win he has to be having a big game. I like to call him our Energizer Bunny. When he's moving he's hyper out there, but he's very coachable. He's really fun to have on the team."
Peterson said when his guard is focused there are few who can stop him because of his quickness and ability to drive to the basket. That's been the case in S-M's other wins. He scored 17 in S-M's 69-63 victory over Minnewaska. He scored 29 in a 68-46 victory over Perham Jan. 23 and 25 in a 85-65 win over Wadena-Deer Creek.
Key stat: Scored 23 points against Albany and 26 against Pequot Lakes
Nurnberger is baffled by his increased scoring output but said improved team play is one reason it has improved.
"Truthfully, I really don't know why I'm scoring so many points," said Nurnberger, who also plays baseball. "Because everyone else is playing well, too, it actually helps me. It's not always me having a big game. Teams can't just concentrate on one guy.
"We'll have someone have a big game, then teams think they need to stop them and that leaves our other shooters open. It just keeps going back and forth. It seems like it's a different person every game that has a huge game and that's important."
Other notable performances
Basketball: Bryce Tesdahl, Crosby-Ironton, finished with 99 points and 46 assists in four games last week.
C.J. Peeters, C-I, had 62 points and 26 rebounds in four games last week.
Jesse Fisher, Pequot Lakes, scored 26 points against Pine River-Backus and 27 against S-M.
Shane Finck, Verndale, finished with 25 points against Sebeka and 17 against Eagle Valley.
Will Kornbaum, Little Falls, had 24 points against St. Cloud Apollo.
Donny Tabery, W-DC, scored 27 points against New York Mills.
Dustin Monson, Pierz, finished with 23 points against Kimball.
Hockey: Jared Festler, Little Falls, had three goals and two assists against Willmar.
Jascha Pettit, Wadena-Deer Creek, recorded his 200th career point with a goal and assist against Morris-Benson.
Tyler Wolden, W-DC, recorded his 100th career point with a goal against Morris-Benson.
JEREMY MILLSOP can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5856.
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