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Rockets sting Pirates with second half comeback

Verndale’s Dillon Card (8) plunges into the end zone during last Friday’s Section 4, Class Nine-man title game.1 / 2
Verndale defenders James Kveton (33) and Bradyn Sickels (21) try to make a play on Underwood’s Noah Thompson (26).2 / 2

The Underwood Rockets proved the adage “you cannot always tell a book by its cover” Friday afternoon in the Section 4, Class Nine-man title game.

LeRoy Hauge kicked the winning point as the third-seeded Underwood Rockets shocked the top-seeded Verndale Pirates 13-12 in the Section 4, Class Nine-man championship game in the Fargodome.

Just moments before Hauge’s game-winning kick a frantic Underwood club scored the tying touchdown as quarterback Adam Creek rolled out and hit tight end Matt Biegler to the game with no time left on the clock – a play that capped an amazing 97-yard drive.

“They made the plays all the way down the field on that final drive,” Verndale head coach Mike Mahlen said following the game.

The Pirates went into the title game with a 9-1 record and totally out-played the Rockets in the first half. The Pirates had a 12-0 lead and 188 yards of offense at the midway point. The 7-3 Rockets headed into the locker room with a pitiful 48 yards.

Even when the game was history the stats favored Verndale. The Pirates out-gained the Rockets on the ground (213-156), in the air (78-64) and ran 52 offensive plays to Underwood’s 41. Underwood’s Noah Thompson, who went into the game as the state’s leading ball carrier with 2,030 yards and 20 touchdowns, struggled for 81 yards on 21 attempts.

“I can’t ever remember losing a game where we won every statistic in the game,” Mahlen said.

Dillon Card, who had 133 rushing yards on 35 carries, scored Verndale’s first touchdown with a one-yard run at the 4:50 mark of the first quarter.

Card went to the air for a second quarter touchdown and hit Marcos Gomez in the end zone with a 36-yard fling with 11:50 on the clock.

The Rockets started showing some life in the third quarter when they parlayed a fumble recovery into a 53-yard scoring drive. Biegler got the call on a one-yard plunge at the 5:56 mark.

Late in the third quarter the Pirates started a drive that threatened to end Underwood’s season. Taking over on their own 40, the Pirates started a ball-control drive that saw Card convert twice on third-down runs and then hit James Kveton with a six-yard aerial that took the ball to Underwood’s two. Facing a fourth and one situation, the Pirates were stopped by a bad exchange of the ball.

“In the second half we finally wore them down a little,” Underwood Head Coach Chuck Ross said.

The offense the Pirates stopped so well in the first half took over on their own three-yard line and started to click in the final five and one-half minutes. Creek hit Aaron Thompson with a 26-yard pass and Biegler rumbled down to Verndale’s 34. When Noah Thompson broke loose for a 12-yard gainer to Verndale’s nine, the Rockets found themselves with a sliver of the chance but no time outs. The Pirates were forced to call an injury timeout in the closing seconds giving the Rockets a chance to call two plays without a huddle. The first one into the line was stuffed. The second one helped punch Underwood’s ticket to the Class Nine-man quarterfinals Friday night in Roseville.

“It was a perfect pass,” Mahlen said in crediting Creek with the game-tying throw. Mahlen also felt Card’s pass coverage on the play was good.

“On the film he missed the ball by a finger,” Mahlen said.

The Rockets held Dakota Finck to 33 rushing yards on 11 carries and limited Colter Ehrmantraut to 32 yards on three attempts. Gomez had three grabs for 60 yards.

Kveton led the Pirates with 15 tackles and Andy Bounds recorded 12.

The Rockets will face Section 2 winner Nicollet in the 7 p.m. contest Friday at Roseville High School.

Underwood 13, Verndale 12

Verndale             6 6 0 0 – 12

Underwood        0 0 6 7 – 13

Verndale: Dillon Card 1 yd run (PAT failed), Marcos Gomez 36 yd pass from Card (PAT failed)

Underwood: Matt Biegler 1 yd run (PAT failed), Biegler 5 yd pass from Adam Creek (PAT LeRoy Hauge kick)

Vern.        Und.

First Downs        16             16

Yards Rushing     213           156

Passes                 5-7            6-11

Total Yards         291           220

Yards Passing      78             64

Penalties             4-20          5-30