OWATONNA 41, JOHN MARSHALL 0
OWATONNA — The last time Owatonna entered a game as the favorite against an opponent from Rochester, the Huskies left with a sour taste in their mouths and limped into the weekend feeling fortunate just to have escaped with a narrow victory over Century in Week 2.
That was then. This is now.
Hosting an undermanned Rochester John Marshall team for its Homecoming contest, Owatonna’s suffocating defense set the tone and its improving offense lit up the scoreboard in another blowout victory for the surging Huskies in Big Southeast District action on Friday night in front of more than 2,500 fans at the OHS stadium.
The decision gives OHS its third consecutive win and its first shutout of the season. Standing two games above .500 for the first time since last year, the Huskies have out-scored their last three opponents by a combined total of 118-14 and have surrendered less than a dozen total first downs over the last 10 quarters of action dating back to the second half against Austin in Week 4.
Owatonna has also returned to near-100% health since an injury-riddled September and shown a discernable level of growth since its shaky win over the Panthers on Sept. 10.
“We really talked about that very thing when we were down in the locker room,” Owatonna coach Jeff Williams said referring to his team’s pregame discussion about taking care of business against an inexperienced and short-handed opponent. “We talked about setting the tone early and playing physical. We actually were talking about deferring and taking the ball if we win it, but they ended up winning the toss and taking the ball to start. We were hoping to pin them deep, and we did, and then the defense came out and played great and gave us great field position — and that was all night.”
Indeed, Owatonna took advantage of superb field position throughout the first three quarters before building a big enough lead to initiate the “running clock” mercy rule to begin the fourth. The Huskies’ average starting field position in the first half was the John Marshall 41-yard line and they set up shop in Rockets’ territory to begin four possessions.
Conversely, the Rockets started inside their 12-yard line on three of their first four drives and did not cross midfield against the OHS starting defense.
“(Drew) Henson didn’t hit as many touchbacks but his ability to hit it high and drop it down into their returner’s arms at the two, it’s tough,” Williams said of his star junior kicker, who also drilled a pair of field goals. “They just had a long field to work with all night and our defense clamped down, and that was outstanding.”
Owatonna scored on its first five drives, led 10-0 after the first quarter, 31-0 after two quarters and 41-0 heading into the fourth.
Henson got the scoring started with a 41-yard field goal with 5 minutes, 41 seconds left in the first quarter and Conner Grems made it 9-0 roughly five minutes later when he pin-balled into the end zone from 6 yards out for his first touchdown of the season.
With the Huskies having rung up 51 yards on the ground in the opening stanza, the passing game stepped to the forefront and punched holes in the Rockets’ defense in the 12 minutes directly before intermission. Sophomore quarterback Jacob Ginskey — who finished 17-for-24 for a season-high 222 yards to go with three touchdowns and zero interceptions — completed 6 of 7 throws to begin the second quarter and found Ayden Walter streaking wide open behind the secondary for a 48-yard touchdown to help make it 17-0 with 11:11 left in the second quarter.
Maas capped a 7-play, 29-yard drive with a 1-yard TD run when he slipped through a crease at the 6:43-mark before Ginskey and Walter hooked up once again for an 18-yard TD roughly a minute later.
Owatonna also forced three turnovers, the first of which came when Caleb Vereide chased down speedy quarterback Darius Jordan from behind and stripped the ball away on John Marshall’s longest play of the game (31 yards). The Huskies took over near midfield and scored the first of their 14 points-off-turnovers on the ensuing possession.
“That strip by Vereide was just a great effort play,” Williams said. “Turnovers are obviously huge. They change momentum and we caused a couple tonight, but the Vereide one, for me, really sticks out because that’s actually something we practice.”
Noah Wellnitz leaped high in the air and picked off a pass just in front of the end zone to preserve the shutout late in the fourth quarter and Grems stepped in front of a throw at the second level in the third quarter for his first interception of the season.
Prior to the starters taking a seat to begin the fourth quarter, the Rockets had produced just two plays greater than 10 yards in the game’s first 36 minutes and were stuffed for zero or negative yardage on eight occasions in the stretch.
Jordan was held to just 10-for-23 for 43 yards and misfired on his final seven passes against the OHS starters. John Marshall also gained less than 50 rushing yards prior to the fourth quarter.
“We hit their quarterback,” Williams said. “We hit him a lot. I think it becomes a long night when that’s what you are going to rely on. You know, they’re a lateral running team. They are going to run those Jet Sweeps, and that’s tough against us, so it requires that you throw the ball, or run the fake Jet and you’re going to have to run into the teeth of Grant Achterkirch and it was a tall order for them and I thought our defense played great.”
Offensively, Walter produced his second multi-TD effort of the season and finished with 65 yards with both of his receptions equaling six points. Nick Williams caught four of his team-high seven passes in a 9-minute stretch of the third quarter and ended with 74 yards. Maas snatched his second receiving touchdown of the season and extended the lead to 37-0 when he hauled in a short pass and darted into the end zone from 12 yards out at the 8:50-mark of the third.
Henson capped the scoring with a 33-yard field goal.
Owatonna churned out 121 yards on the ground with Maas accounting for the majority of the production with 82 yards. The senior has racked up 358 of his 433 total rushing yards in the last three weeks alone, finding his stride behind an offensive line that has clearly put its early-season growing pains behind them. Beginning the game with its fourth starting combination in six weeks after the loss of center Dawson Risser, the group not only opened holes for Maas, by-and-large provided a clean pocket for Ginskey to pick apart the Rockets’ defense.
“They sustained their blocks really well,” Williams said of the offensive line. “I thought the second half in particular we were able to do some things in the run game that I really liked. Coach (Doug) Wanous made some adjustments that gave JM some issues, but a lot of it was just physicality and we were able to get up underneath their pads.”
THE SLANT I Breaking down the contest
Here’s the deal: Not that it would have changed the outcome, but John Marshall played without one of its two returning all-district honorable mention players in run-stuffing lineman Ben Laack (6-4, 305) and, according to the Rochester Post Bulletin, took the field with eight underclassman for long stretches in the first half. Regardless, Ginskey had his best throwing effort of the season and the offense continued to make strides, but it was the defense that once again the stole the show.
Where does Owatonna go from here? The Huskies will be tested in an always-grueling stretch to end the regular season that will feature two games in a 5-day span against New Prague next Friday, Oct. 15 and Kasson-Mantorville next Wednesday, Oct. 20. The Trojans and KoMets are a combined 8-4 on the season and will provide a physical test unlike what OHS has seen over the last three weeks. Moving forward, it would take a rather unexpected, and equally unlikely, string of events for Owatonna to not secure a first-round bye and the No. 2 seed in the Section 1-5A tournament.
NOTES I Extra stats, details, trends & highlights
This was Owatonna’s first shutout since beating Century 42-0 on Oct. 23 of 2020 (Week 3)…The victory extended the Huskies’ winning streak against the Rockets to 18 games dating back to 2005…After returning to action in Week 4 following a two-game injury hiatus and emerging as a legitimate all-league level player, OHS senior defensive end, Ryley Glassmaker, went down with an ankle injury in the second quarter and did not return. It is unlikely he will play in the final two games of the regular season due to the condensed nature of the schedule.
Owatonna: 4-2 overall, 4-2 Big Southeast District; 4-1 vs. Section 1-5A
John Marshall: 1-5 overall, 1-5 Big Southeast District; 1-3 vs. Section 1-5A
UP NEXT I Looking ahead at the upcoming matchup
Week 7: @ New Prague (4-2)
The Trojans…were crushed by Rochester Mayo, 45-0, on Friday night, but entered the game having won three in a row by an average score of 40-13.
Owatonna 41, John Marshall 0
RJM 0 0 0 0—0
OWA 10 21 10 0—41
O—Drew Henson 41 field goal, 5:41; 3-0 Owatonna
O—Conner Grems 6 run (Henson kick), 0:54; 10-0
O—Ayden Walter 46 pass from Jacob Ginskey (Henson kick), 11:11; 17-0
O—Dylan Maas 1 run (Henson kick), 6:43; 24-0
O—Walter 12 pass from Ginskey (Henson kick), 5:33; 31-0
O—Maas 4 pass from Ginskey (Henson kick), 8:50; 38-0
O—Henson 33 field goal, 0:26; 41-0
OWATONNA INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
Passing: Jacob Ginskey 17 for 24-222 YDS-3 TD-0 INT
Rushing: Dylan Maas 17 carries-82 yards-1 TD; Conner Grems 4-15-1; Grant Achterkirch 1-3; Ginskey 8-5; Noah Wellnitz 1-4; Marco Mendez 1-1; Dezmond Nichols 5-11. TOTAL: 37-121-2
Receiving: Ayden Walter 2 receptions-65 yards-2 TD; Lane Wagner 1-23; Nick Williams 8-72; Achterkirch 1-9; Collin Vick 3-35; Caleb Hullopeter 1-7; Maas 1-11-1. TOTAL: 17-22-3
Defense: Caleb Vereide 1 FF; Achterkirch 1 FR; Cael Dowling 1 FR; Grems INT; Wellnitz INT
Special teams: Henson 2 for 2 FG (41, 33), 5 for 5 extra points
Story and photos by Jon Weisbrod
Statistics courtesy of Mark Sebring
Photo album via OwatonnaFootball.com public Facebook site: https://www.facebook.com/photo?fbid=115794310859245&set=pcb.115794820859194