Trojan turnovers lead to loss

In a battle between the No. 4 and No. 8-ranked teams in Class 4A, the fourth-ranked Hutchinson Tigers prevailed over the New Prague Trojans at Hutchinson Friday, Sept. 17.

The Trojans were playing without two key players, who are out for the season with injuries. Senior Troy Pint suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament during the season opener against Waseca, while Mark Laban, the Trojans' leading rusher and scorer through two weeks, broke his leg late in the Trojans' 7-6 win over Holy Angels.

Still, New Prague was able to get its offense moving better than it had a week earlier. Sophomore Daren Geyen led the way with 93 yards rushing on 18 carries, as New Prague had 102 yards rushing. Sophomore Ross Skluzacek threw for 123 yards on 8-of-23 passing and a touchdown. However, he had three passes intercepted, each of which led to a second half touchdown as the Tigers pulled away for a 35-12 win.

Good start

The Trojans drew first blood in this game. After stopping the Tigers on a fourth-down play, they marched 71 yards in eight plays for a touchdown. Geyen started things off with a 29-yard run into Tiger territory, at the 42-yard line. Two plays later, Skluzacek threw to Jeff Pumper for 22 yards, putting the ball at the 18. Three runs by Geyen gave the Trojans a first-and-goal at the 5. A penalty pushed the Trojans back to the 10, but Skluzacek hit Pumper with a 10-yard scoring pass with 4:53 left, and New Prague led 6-0.

Hutchinson came back with a methodical, but effective drive, going 67 yards on 16 plays, all on the ground with no play going for more than 11 yards. They capped the drive with a 5-yard run by Scott Glaeser with 10:15 left in the second quarter, and the point after gave Hutchinson a 7-6 lead.

Trojans retake lead

New Prague struck back quickly. Consecutive completions to Eric Bisek for 18 yards and Mike Hafermann for 19 put the Trojans at the Tiger 28. Josh Simon ran for five yards, and Geyen carried for 19, putting the ball at the 1-yard line. Skluzacek got the touchdown with 7:42 remaining. The two-point conversion failed, and the Trojans were up 12-7.

Hutchinson responded with a 6-yard drive that covered four plays, with Glaeser scoring on a 53-yard run on a fourth-and-one play. The kick made it 14-12 with 6:27 remaining.

Turnovers hurt

In the second half, New Prague tried to attack on its second possession. But the drive came to a halt when a Skluzacek pass was intercepted by Hutchinson, giving the Tigers the ball at the Trojan 31. Hutch scored on a third-and-12 play, with Glaeser again getting the touchdown with 6:04 left in the third. The point after made it 21-12.

The Trojans were intercepted again on their next possession, and Hutchinson went 30 yards on 10 plays, with Jason Swift scoring from two yards out. The kick made it 28-12.

New Prague started to move, getting a pair of first downs to start the fourth quarter. But things stopped abruptly as Skluzacek was sacked twice and the Trojans had to punt.

New Prague’s defense stopped the Tigers on the next possession with a sack on a fourth-down play.

The teams traded punts, then the Trojans went on the move again. Bisek caught a 26-yard pass, but then Skluzacek threw his third interception. On the next play, Brooks Albrecht ran for 63 yards and the final score of the game, making it 35-12 Tigers.

Some positives

Coach Tony Buthe said there were some positives to look at after the loss.

“We started out real fired up in the first half, scoring on our first two possessions, but after that we made too many mistakes. We had losses on first down, which always hurts, and then there were the turnovers.”

He said blame for the interceptions did not lay solely on the sophomore quarterback.

“We had some problems with poor pass protection and errors by receivers, it wasn’t just the quarterback.

“Ross had a great first half. His first interception was a fade, but they had a blitzing linebacker come through. We should have picked him up, but he got a hand on Ross’ arm as he threw it.”

Buthe said Geyen, who missed the Holy Angels game with an injury, is a shifty runner. “He’s very deceiving as far as speed. On a few of the handoffs, there were guys right in front of him and he sidestepped them. He had a nice game for us.”

He also credited senior lineman Kevin Pexa with a strong defensive game. They were a large team, very big, and they kept coming at us. Kevin did a nice job.”

Besides Geyen, Hafermann had 16 yards on four carries and Simon 10 yards on two carries. Pumper caught three passes for 29 yards, and Bisek and Hafferman had two catches each, for 44 and 32 yard respectively.

Defensively, Curt Hoemke and Pumper led the Trojans with four solos and four assists. Joe Barten had six solos and an assist, and Pexa had four solos and three assists, along with a sack.

Hutchinson outgained the Trojans 308-225. All of the Tigers yards came on the ground, as they attempted just two passs, both falling incomplete.

Homecoming

The going won't get any easier for New Prague, as they face their third state-ranked opponent in as many weeks when they host Northfield in their Homecoming game. The Raiders are ranked No. 1 in the state coming off of a win over Farmington last week. Game time at Trojan Field will be 7 p.m.

“Northfield’s got the whole package,” Buthe said. “They’re a solid football team in all three phases, we will have to play our best game.

“We’re getting better in a lot of areas too. We’ll be just fine. It will be a good homecoming game.”

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