DULUTH - The Pequot Lakes Patriots had their magical season come to an end in a 31-14 loss to the Mora Mustangs in the quarterfinals of the Class 3A state playoffs Saturday at Public School Stadium.
The Mustangs jumped out to a 12-0 lead but the Patriots cut the deficit to 12-8 before the end of the first quarter on a 46-yard touchdown dash by senior Matt Michaelson, who completed his career by rushing 20 times for 169 yards.
In the second half the Patriots cut the Mustangs' lead to 19-14 on a 14-yard touchdown run by senior Cody Chambers. But, on the ensuing possession, Mora's Dylan Graves put the game away with an 85-yard kickoff return.
The Patriots lost starting quarterback Cole Engen to a foot injury in the first quarter. He was unable to return and Michaelson and sophomore quarterback Nevin Greer filled in.
Cody Chambers (right) of Pequot Lakes tackled Mora's Nathan Rogalski (81) in the Class 3A state quarterfinals. Brainerd Dispatch/Kelly Humphrey» Purchase reprints of this photo.
Mora competes in the West Central Conference and head coach Randy Qual thought playing in that conference prepared the Mustangs to face Pequot.
The passing game was a big emphasis for Mora. Quarterback Andrew Youngblom finished the regular season with 1,066 yards passing.
"Our quarterback has a pretty strong arm, and we were throwing pretty short passes to maintain drives. That was our game plan," said Qual. "We knew they had a great defense. With their linebackers and defensive line, we threw the ball a lot more than we typically do but that's what you have to do in the state playoffs."
Mora was successful passing as Youngblom completed 12 of 19 attempts for 153 yards and two touchdowns. Graves was his prime recipient with six catches for 64 yards.
Pequot Lakes had great success with the running game all season, but struggled to maintain the run Saturday. The Patriots still tallied 194 yards on 36 carries, but 117 of those yards came on two long runs by Michaelson.
The injury to Engen also hurt as the Mustangs keyed on Pequot Lakes' running game. The Patriots ended up with just two pass completions for 21 yards.
Matt Michaelson (12) of the Pequot Lakes Patriots sprinted ahead of the Mora Mustangs' defense in the Class 3A state quarterfinals Saturday. Brainerd Dispatch/Kelly Humphrey» Purchase reprints of this photo.
Patriots head coach Chip Lohmiller was proud of his team's effort throughout the season while acknowledging things just didn't click Saturday.
"We played really well throughout the season, but we had a letdown tonight," he said. "It wasn't our night. Nothing was clicking. I could tell that this week was a little struggle in practice. Week in and week out we worked on and off the field.
"You have to give it to Mora. They played a great game tonight, and they keyed us well."
After struggling for just one score in the first half, Pequot trailed 19-8 at the half. The Patriots got the ball back on downs after holding the Mustangs at the Pequot Lakes' 15.
The Patriots then mounted their best series of the day with a 5-play drive cutting the lead to 19-14 on a 14-yard scoring plunge by Chambers. The key play was a 71-yard run by Michaelson, and the momentum was back to Pequot Lakes with 6:02 left in the third quarter.
The Mustangs took the momentum right back with the biggest play of the day, an 85-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Graves that gave Mora a 25-14 lead.
"We scored and had the momentum going our way when they ran the touchdown back and it just broke our back," Lohmiller said. "We had some injuries early and we were not 100 percent healthy."
Qual said getting the ball to Graves early in the third quarter was a key for the Mustangs.
Mora 31, Pequot Lakes 14
The key: A third-quarter 85-yard touchdown return by the Mustangs' Dylan Graves swung the momentum away from the Patriots.
Overall: Pequot finishes 10-2.
"We have coaches charting the number of touches that he gets," Qual said. "And, we had talked at halftime about having a drive to set the tone. And, we thought we had that drive early, but ended up in a tough spot. Pequot Lakes then responded so it was big for us."
In the fourth, Pequot Lakes had to face the teeth of a tough wind, and having their starting quarterback on the bench.
With 8:11 left in the game, Michaelson picked off a Youngblom pass to give the Patriots a chance to cut the Mustangs' lead. The only problem was it was a 50-yard throw and the Patriots took over on their own 1-yard line.
Mora 12 7 6 6 - 31
Pequot Lakes 8 0 6 0 - 14
M-Dylan Graves 21 pass from Andrew Youngblom (kick failed) 7:58
M-Nathan Rogalski 2 run (conversion failed) 5:28
PL-Matt Michaelson 46 run (Michaelson run)
M-Graves 11 pass from Youngblom (Rogalski kick) 10:06
PL-Cody Chambers 14 run (conversion failed) 6:02
M-Graves 85 kickoff return (conversion failed) 5:46
M-Graves 44 run (kick failed) 2:57
Rushes-yards: PL 36-194, M 38-170
Pass comp-att-int-yards: PL 2-8-0-21, M 12-19-1-153
Total offense: PL 215, M 323
Rushing: PL, Michaelson 20-169, Chambers 6-28, Nick Greer 2-7, Cole Engen 2-5, Logan Lange 4-9, Nevin Greer 4-(24); M, Graves 5-71, Tyler Jones 17-47, Rogalski 6-23, Preston Carlisle 7-31, Youngblom 2-0.
Passing: PL, Engen 0-1-0-0, Michaelson 0-3-0-0, Nevin Greer 2-4-0-21; M, Youngblom 12-19-1-153.
Receiving: PL, David Liedl 1-6, Jacob Box 1-15; M, Graves 6-64, Traver Fields 3-54, Preston Carlisle 2-23, Nathan Burk 1-12.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.