Burros conquer Cougars in gridiron opener, 25-6

LEE EPPS/NEWS LEADER Seth Semmen launches a pass while Burro teammate Nate Betz (No. 2) blocks Mabel-Canton's Matt McClimon.
Chad Smith

Lanesboro won at Mabel-Canton, 25-6, in the 9-man football season opener last Friday night. The Cougars had an edge in yardage, but Lanesboro prevailed in turnovers, kick returns and field position. The Cougars are 0-1 overall and in the District 9 South (East Sub-District) standings. The Burros are 1-0 overall and in the sub-district.

The game was expected to be a clash of ground games as both teams featured veteran running backs. However, the defenses prevented any long runs by both proven running backs, but both new quarterbacks debuted with a touchdown pass.

M-C's Gavin Johnson was held to 72 yards on 18 carries, all short-yardage runs except for a 16-yard gallop. Lanesboro's JT Rein was limited to only 50 yards on 18 carries, but he scored twice on one and 13-yard runs. He also contributed on special teams, opening the scoring with a 57-yard punt return touchdown.

In his debut as starting Cougar quarterback, junior Jack Arneson completed 8 of 13 passes (62%) for 98 yards, including a 25-yard TD toss to Ethan Underbakke (5 receptions, 77 yards), who made a leaping over-the-shoulder catch in the end zone. That play cut the Burro lead down to 7-6 in the second quarter.

LHS quarterback Seth Semmen, just a sophomore who was making his first varsity start, completed 5 of 12 passes, including a 21-yard TD toss to Ben Snyder, who closed scoring by coming down with both feet inbounds in the back corner of the end zone before falling out of bounds.

Both quarterbacks were intercepted once. Sophomore Reece Benson picked off a pass to end M-C's last chance to score with 3:07 to play. Underbakke intercepted a Burro pass at the Cougar 12 yard-line to prevent Lanesboro from taking an early two-touchdown lead.

But, the Burros won the turnover battle, recovering all three of their own fumbles and pouncing on three of the six M-C fumbles.

Mabel-Canton had the two longest drives of the game, scoring on a 78-yard possession in the first half and going 74 yards before losing a fumble at the Burro three yard-line in the fourth quarter.

Field position often gets overlooked but it was huge in this game. While the Cougars started 10 of their 11 possessions in their own end of the field, the Burros took possession five times (out of 11) in M-C territory.

In addition to the special teams TD, the LHS offense scored on 42-, 40- and 38-yard possessions. Lanesboro had one more chance to add points when a blocked punt by Bodin Mayer gave LHS the ball at the M-C 16 just before halftime. However, the Cougar defense held, and LHS took a 13-6 lead into intermission.

Special teams popped up again as the second half began with a 49-yard kickoff return by Burro Nate Betz. Two LHS penalties scuttled that threat. But after trading punts and a 20-yard punt return by Rein, the Burros drove 40 yards to take a 19-6 lead.

The final Burro score came after recovering a fumble at the Cougar 38.

Penalties and turnovers meant it wasn’t always a pretty start to the season for both teams. Lanesboro overcame eight penalties (80 yards); M-C had half that many penalties (4) for half the yardage (40 yards), but four Cougar possessions ended with turnovers (3 fumbles, 1 interception).

Overall, M-C had 204 yards of offense (106 rush, 98 pass) to Lanesboro's 143 (97 rush, 46 pass). However, the Burros blocked one Cougar punt and had 149 yards of kick returns to 85 for M-C.

The Cougars blocked two kicks with Alex Arneson and Jack Arneson blocking two of the four LHS extra-point kicks. M-C failed on its two-point conversion run. 

For the most part, each team’s defense asserted itself. Only three plays from scrimmage (all passes) covered more than 20 yards (M-C 2, LHS 1); the longest run was Johnson's 16-yard scamper late in the game. The defenses combined to force 11 punts (LHS 6, MC 5) and 5 turnovers (MC 4, LHS 1).

Both teams held on downs once. LHS ran out downs after reaching M-C 16 just before halftime, and the Cougars were stopped on downs after reaching the Burro 33 in the second half.

The defenses kept the opposition away from big plays as M-C averaged 3.7 yards per play: LHS averaged 3.2 yards per snap. Nine of the 12 Cougar first downs came on their two long drives.

M-C had won the previous two games between the two teams, but in the 9-man era, Lanesboro now holds an 11 to 9 edge in the very competitive series.


The Cougars head to Adams for a game with Southland on Friday night, Sept. 6. In its first-ever 9-man game, Southland (1-0) beat Houston in a defensive struggle last week, 9-8.  

The Burros play their crossover game this Friday, hosting Sleepy Eye St. Mary's. The Knights dropped their opener to Nicollet, 26-13.


>>East Sub-district

Lanesboro 25, M-C 6

Southland 9, Houston 8

GM 47, Kingsland 22

LeRoy-Ostr. 67, Lyle/Pacelli 14

Sp. Grove 30, GHEC/T 28


LHS---7---6---6---6 = 25

M-C---0---6---0---0  =  6 


RUSHING: Johnson 18-72; Underbakke 9-22; J. Tollefsrud 1-8; Reid Crawford 4-6; Jack Arneson 9(-1).

PASSING: Jack Arneson 8-13-1, 98 yds., TD

RECEIVING: Underbakke 5-77, TD; Johnson 2-12; Alex Arneson 1-9


RUSHING: Rein 18-50, 2TD; Gathje 11-47; Semmen 3-11

PASSING: Semmen 5-12-1, 46 yds. TD

RECEIVING: Snyder 2-29, TD; Rein 3-17