In a rematch of last year’s Section 6A championship game, Breckenridge turned the football over twice inside the five-yard line, upending their hopes of victory in a 22-8 home loss to Ottertail Central, Minnesota, Friday Sept. 3.
“We want to try to get better with every snap, with every game, with everything we do. We learned a lot tonight,” Breckenridge Head Coach Chad Fredericksen said. “We did some things well and we obviously missed some things. We lost the turnover battle and we didn’t finish some drives.”
The performance was a mixed bag for Breckenridge. After losing a haul of seniors to graduation, Fredericksen’s new-look roster was able to move the football and threaten the Bulldogs’ defense. Athletic quarterback play, capable rushers and flashes of talent on defense gave reason for optimism moving forward.
“I’m happy with our guys and our ability to come out and play real football and have real fans out here,” Fredericksen said. “We took that first step. We’re a good enough football team that we’re going to win some football games and we can build off everything tonight.”
The offensive attack was punctuated by Cameron Nieto’s 75-yard touchdown run to start the second quarter. Nieto dropped back to pass, and when the pocket collapsed, he used some nifty footwork to step up and evade the OTC edge rushers. The junior quarterback turned the left corner and gained a full head of steam before running over a cornerback and stiff-arming a safety on his way to the end zone.
Nieto was hampered by cramps for a large portion of the game, but led the offense with nine carries for 96 yards and 26 yards passing.
“When we had cramping issues, we put some guys out there that hadn’t really taken a snap all week. We just gotta be ready to go.There was some adversity tonight. We had some at the start of the game and we had some during the game,” Fredericksen said. “That’s the youth thing, it’s about being the next guy up. You can’t take things for granted, you’re that next guy.”
Breckenridge sustained its first drive of the game with a 23-yard pass from Nieto to Bailey Evans. Gavin Pederson bulldozed up the middle for a 26-yard run and suddenly the Cowboys were at the OTC five-yard line. Nieto rolled right on a bootleg as OTC blanketed the Cowboy wideouts, forcing him to throw an interception in the end zone which was returned near midfield.
Trailing 14-8 with 4:30 remaining in the third quarter, Breckenridge fumbled on the goal line and OTC pounced on it. Bulldogs’ quarterback Tanner Arndt scored his second touchdown of the game in the fourth quarter to put things out of reach, as the OTC offense began to wear on the young Breckenridge line.
“That’s a good football team,” Fredericksen said of OTC. “That’s somebody we could see in the future as we go into the section (playoffs). We want to be able to come back next week and be better.”
While OTC was able to pound the ball and pass the ball for consistent gains, the Breckenridge defense had its moments. Wyatt Differding was in on a handful of tackles during the first half and Nieto laid some hits on the Bulldog ball carriers.
The Breckenridge secondary snuffed out four consecutive passes from their own 19-yard line with 30 seconds remaining before half. Arndt threw a drifting fade to the end zone on 4th-and-10, but Nieto was there to deflect the football away and keep it a one-score game.
Dallen Ernst came through with a heads up play for Breckenridge when OTC booted a kickoff near the sideline in the fourth quarter. Unaware that it was a live play, the Breckenridge returners backed away from the football as it rolled to a stop. OTC jumped on top of it, but when the pile was sorted out by the officials, it was Ernst who had wrestled away the football to keep possession for Breckenridge.
OTC bottled up James Mertes for most of the game, but it was only a matter of time before the speedster got loose. Mertes shook a pair of ankle tackles and reeled off a 37-yard run, bringing his stat line to a respectable nine carries for 58 yards. Pederson was a nice addition to the backfield with four carries for 31 yards.
Arndt was too shifty for the Breckenridge tacklers. His big game consisted of 105 passing yards, 36 rushing yards and two scores. Calvin Stueve led the OTC backfield with 92 yards. The Bulldogs ran the ball 51 times for 219 yards.
Breckenridge returns to action at home Friday, Sept. 10 at 7:00 p.m. vs. Parkers Prairie, Minnesota.