Mabel-Canton suffers road loss at Lyle/Pacelli, 30-18

HEATHER KLEIBOER/NEWS LEADER Gavin Johnson picks up some yards for the Cougars in the game against Lyle/Pacelli.
Chad Smith

Coaches often preach balance on offense as a key to playing winning football. Lyle/Pacelli followed that prescription and used a balanced attack to overcome the Mabel-Canton ground game and end a 31-game losing streak with a 30-18 Homecoming win on Sept. 27.

It wasn’t a pretty game for either team with a lot of flags and turnovers. Mabel-Canton falls to 0-5 (0-5 sub-district) while L/P improved to 1-4.

Both teams had key players put up solid stats. Cougar Gavin Johnson rushed for 175 yards and two touchdowns.

L/P junior quarterback Jed Nelson ran for 105 yards and passed for 247. His favorite target was Zach Bollingberg, who caught five passes for 119 yards and two touchdowns.

The M-C offense was sometimes productive but also had trouble finishing several drives. The Cougars scored three touchdowns but had three turnovers and was stopped on downs three times – the first at midfield and later after reaching the L/P 22 and 15 yard-lines.

The Cougars did score on a clutch fourth-down play, a 14-yard TD pass from Jack Arneson to Ethan Underbakke that gave them their only lead of the game.

M-C did most of its damage on the ground, rushing for 223 yards but attempted only six passes, completing three with one interception, for a total of 30 yards. Arneson was also sacked three times for 17 lost yards.

The Athletics didn’t play a perfect game either. They had four Homecoming turnovers but came up with big pass plays and converted all three of their fourth-down attempts, one with a touchdown pass.

L/P rushed for 115 yards and passed for 254 while outgaining M-C overall, 369 yards to 253.

It was anyone’s game at halftime. Trailing only 14-12 at that point, M-C began the second half with a promising drive that reached the L/P 15 before it ended with a fourth-down sack.

The Athletics, aided by 28 yards of M-C penalties, then drove 80 yards in 11 plays to go ahead 22-12 with the extra points making it a two-score deficit for M-C.

The Cougars responded well, putting together a 7-play, 73-yard drive with Johnson's 38-yard gallop setting up his four-yard TD plunge.

But M-C still trailed by extra points 22-18 at the end of the third quarter. The Athletics didn’t wait, answering right away with a 22-yard kickoff return and 49-yard drive that ended with Nelson passing to Bollingberg for the final 15 yards and another two-score lead, 30-18.

The Cougars could not reply again as a fumble and a sack forced them to punt. L/P then ran off a lot of time (10 plays 69 yards) before losing a fumble at the M-C 5. The Cougars lost two more fumbles deep in their own territory before the A’s took knees to end the game.

Neither coach was likely happy with the flag-filled game. M-C wound up drawing eight penalties for 75 yards, and L/P had 11 of its own for 90 yards.

There were seven total turnovers (M-C 3, L/P 4). Jack Arneson and Cayden Tollefsrud had interceptions for M-C with the first half ending on Arneson's pick-off in the M-C end zone. Matt McClimon fell on a late L/P fumble.

The Cougar defense didn’t wait long to make a play, either. On the game's first play from scrimmage, Alex Arneson recovered a fumble forced by Dawson Wilder.

Johnson had a team-high 11 tackles along with 10 stops by Underbakke. Wilder's 7 tackles included 2 for lost yardage.

While Mabel-Canton threatened early in the game, the Athletics scored first. After the Cougars were stopped a yard short on a fourth-down play at midfield on their first possession, Lyle/Pacelli took just two plays to score. Bollingberg scored a touchdown on a 36-yard pass play (short reception, long run).

On their fourth possession, the Cougars drove 45 yards in eight plays to tie the game at 6-all with Johnson carrying the final 3 yards.

After Cayden Tollefsrud returned an interception 12 yards, M-C marched 35 yards to take a 12-6 lead with a fourth-down, 14-yard TD pass from Arneson to Underbakke. But unsuccessful extra points would cost the Cougars.

On the very next play from scrimmage, Bollingberg would make a circus catch on his back for a 42-yard gain to the M-C 30. Nelson scored on a 3-yard TD run and passed to Cole Walter for the extra points that put the Athletics ahead for good, 14-12.

That would be the halftime score after the teams traded interceptions.

The Athletics' 31-game losing streak not only ended against Mabel-Canton but also began with a playoff loss to the Cougars in 2015.

The Mabel-Canton B team won at Lyle/Pacelli 30-14 earlier in the week. The Mabel-Canton/Spring Grove junior high boys (2-2) edged L/P 20-19 before dominating Lansing Kee, 40-6.


The Cougars are back on their home field on Friday night, Oct. 4, for a Homecoming matchup against the Houston Hurricanes.

The 'Canes come into the game with a 3-2 record (3-2 sub-district). Their three-game win streak ended last week with a 29-22 hard-fought loss at home against two-time state champ Spring Grove. The 'Canes other loss was a 9-8 defensive struggle against Southland in the season opener. They then ran off three wins in a row against Kingsland, Lanesboro and Lyle/Pacelli.