PILLAGER -- While Ottertail Central slotback John Mess was scoring four touchdowns, the Pillager Huskies football team was turning the ball over five times, had a snap on an attempted punt sail out of the end zone for a safety and was victimized by a game-opening onside kick.
So it's no surprise that the Huskies lost to the visiting Ottertail Central Bulldogs 56-6. Interestingly enough, Pillager coaches and players found plenty of positive things to take away from this game.
"We're young and we're going to be up and down" said Huskies head coach Pete Bothun. "Now the hardest part of our schedule is over. We're so close to popping a big game. We move the ball up and down the field and then shoot ourselves in the foot offensively. We're going to continue to do what we do well and let the chips fall where they may."
After recovering the opening onside kickoff, the Bulldogs scored the game's first touchdown on a 10-yard run by slotback John Mess. It was the first of four Mess touchdowns. Mess also scored on a 32-yard interception and runback, on passing plays of 36 and 35 yards and on a 2-point conversion run.
With less than half a minute left in the first half, Ottertail Central held a comfortable 36-0 lead and the ball on Pillager's 35. Instead of running out the clock, the Bulldogs lobbed salvos into the Huskies' end zone. The last one, with a mere four ticks left on the clock, was caught by Mess for a touchdown.
The strategy to run up points may be fallout from a Minnesota State High School League tie-breaking rule that adds up points. The result left Pillager on the short end of a 44-0 score.
The Huskies' lone touchdown was scored in the third quarter on a 9-yard Lee Roberts to Eric Pook pass.
Mess rolled up 105 combined offensive yards, catching two passes for 71 yards and rushing six times for 34 yards. Huskies running back Steve Szczodroski rushed seven times for 46 yards. Steve Bethel added 41 yards on 10 rushes while his brother Robert logged 23 yards in nine carries.
"We did a lot of things wrong but you can see there's been improvement," said Bothun. "Our players are seeing it; I'm seeing it; I hope the community is seeing it. Last year Ottertail Central thumped us 72-8 so we came into this game with a realistic idea of what to expect.
"We're young and we played well once we settled down. The future is bright here. Doggone it, the kids aren't down and I'm not down. We understand that this is a building process. Once we get into the playoffs we're going to be a tough team to beat."
Despite liberal substitutions by both teams, the Pillager squad played the Bulldogs close throughout the second half. The Huskies showed they aren't inclined to roll over. That grit should serve them well on their push to the playoffs. The Huskies are now 1-2 in the Prairie Conference North while the Bulldogs remain undefeated and atop the conference with a 4-0 record.
Ottertail Central 28 16 6 6 -- 56
Pillager 0 0 6 0 -- 6
OC-John Mess 10-yd run (kick failed), 9:59
OC-Safety (punt formation, ball centered out of end zone), 7:32
OC-T. Christianson 1-yd. run (kick blocked), 4:45
OC-Mess 30-yd interception return (snap fumbled, kick failed), 4:10
OC-Mess 36-yd pass from Sean Belmont (Mess run) 2:24
OC-T. Christianson 14-yd. run (Dave Moll run), 7:29
OC-Mess 35-yd. pass from Belmont (J. Christianson run) 0:04
OC-Belmont 9-yd. run (kick failed), 6:41
P-Eric Pook 9-yd. pass from Lee Roberts (kick failed) 1:57
OC-J. Christianson 26-yd. run (run failed)
First downs -- OC 15; P 9
Rushes-yards -- OC 36-244; P 36-130
Pass comp-att-int-yards -- OC 5-10-0-151 (2 TD); P 12-3-2-20
Total offense -- OC 395; P150
Fumbles-lost -- OC 3-3; P 6-3
Penalties-yards lost -- OC 7-85; P2-10
Rushing -- OC-Mess 6-34, T. Christianson 12-77; Luke Stewart 4-49, J. Christianson 4-17; P-Steve Szczodroski 7-46, S. Bethel 10-41, R. Bethel 9-23, Jeff Pace 5-20
Passing -- OC-Belmont 5-10-0-151 (2 TD); P-Roberts 2-11-2-16
Receiving -- OC-Mess 2- 71, Fiskum 2-43; P-Pook 2-16
Conference -- OC 4-0; P 1-1. Overall -- BL 4-0; P 2-2 Next game -- Pillager at Parkers Prairie 7:30 p.m. Friday.
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