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Area Football: Pirates plaster Mustangs

Verndale 43, Buffalo Lake 8 Highlight: Mitch Blaha rushed for 111 yards and caught two passes for 104 more Overall: V 3-1, BLH 1-3 Next: Verndale at Rothsay 7 p.m. Friday VERNDALE - At the halfway point of the season, the Verndale Pirates are cli...

Verndale 43, Buffalo Lake 8

Highlight: Mitch Blaha rushed for 111 yards and caught two passes for 104 more

Overall: V 3-1, BLH 1-3

Next: Verndale at Rothsay 7 p.m. Friday

VERNDALE - At the halfway point of the season, the Verndale Pirates are clicking.

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Verndale racked up 418 yards of offense. It held Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart to 19 yards of offense in the first half and forced three Mustang turnovers, while not turning the ball over once.

The lopsided stat sheet resulted in a lopsided non-subdistrict 43-8 homecoming victory Friday at Mike Mahlen Field.

"We made some big plays, but we also had some sustained drives where we took the ball and marched down the field 60 or 70 yards and scored," said Verndale head coach Mike Mahlen. "We did have some big plays, though. That was nice to see."

Verndale's Mitch Blaha outgained the Mustangs himself. The senior back rushed for 111 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries. He also caught two passes for 104 yards and another score. Buffalo Lake finished with 181 yards of offense and most of that came against Verndale's junior varsity defense.

Despite Blaha's big game, it was Mac Schluttner, who got things rolling on Verndale's opening drive. The junior capped off a 12-play, 65-yard drive with a 12-yard run. Three plays later sophomore Luke Weniger returned an interception 51 yards for a 16-0 Verndale lead.

Schluttner capped off Verndale's next possession, which covered 87 yards on nine plays, with a 19-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Mack Jones. The first-year starting quarterback was an efficient 5-of-7 passing for 144 yards.

"We've definitely made a lot of improvement since week one," said Blaha. "We've been going hard in practice and everybody is just stepping up. We had a lot of inexperience coming into this year. Our line is basically all new. Our center moved to fullback so everybody is working hard in practice and it's really working out for us.

"A game like tonight is going to help us a lot because we got all of our younger guys some experience. That will help us down the road when we get some injuries. That's an inevitable part of the game."

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Blaha scored his first touchdown at 3:45 of the second quarter on a two-yard sweep. After a Mustang punt gave Verndale the ball at its own 25, Blaha was streaking 60-yards down the left sideline for his second touchdown on a pass from Jones with 1:08 left. The touchdown pass helped Verndale to a 36-0 halftime lead.

On Verndale's second possession of the second half, Blaha scored from nine yards out and it was time to let everyone else in the game.

Buffalo Lake was held to 73 yards rushing. Mustang quarterback Brad Ebbers threw for 108 yards, but was picked off twice. Buffalo also fumbled and Schluttner returned 80 yards for a touchdown, but it was called back because of a penalty.

"We were really prepared for both offensive sets that they ran," said Blaha. "Our coach, our defensive coordinator, does a good job in practice getting us every set they run. He'll go back a couple of years of film to get everything he can on them. We get good practice against what they might run.

"We just have to keep going and improve week to week. This was definitely our best game of the year."

After opening the season with a 71-0 blowout of Laporte, BLHS has dropped its last three games by a combined 110-36, but Mahlen thought the Mustangs were a better team than Friday night's score indicated.

"They hit and pretty physical team and hit hard, but I thought we played our best game of the year," said Mahlen. "They came out in four wide offense, but they weren't completing anything. Other than that they tried to run the fullback up the middle or the pitch sweep and our kids came up well and did a good job of tackling.

"We really took a big step forward tonight. We started the season without a scrimmage and we started six guys that had never played before. We have three seniors and those were our only returning starters. The kids are learning and doing a good job. I'm pleased with how physical we are. Two weeks ago against Hillcrest Academy we weren't physical. The last two weeks we have been."

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Buffalo Lake-HS 0 0 0 8 - 8

Verndale 22 14 7 0 - 43

First quarter

V-Mac Schluttner 12 run (Zach Johnson pass from Mack Jones) 7:29

V-Luke Weniger 51 interception return (Mitch Blaha pass from Jones) 7:04

V-Schluttner 19 pass from Jones (run failed) 24.5

Second quarter

V-Blaha 2 run (pass failed) 3:45

V-Blaha 60 pass from Jones (Jones run) 1:08

Third quarter

V-Blaha 9 run (Johnson kick) 6:28

Fourth quarter

BL-Austin Krippner 1 run (Krippner run) 7:28

Team statistics

Rushes-yards: V 54-270, BLH 24-73

Pass comp-att-int-yds: V 6-8-148, BLH 16-27-108

Total offense: V 62-418, BLH 51-181

Individual leaders

Rushing: V-Ethan Orlando 4-17, Mac Schluttner 8-56, Mitch Blaha 16-111, Mack Jones 6-12, Luke Weniger 3-34, Matthew Steege 8-23, Dakota Buderus 2-5, Josh Bonds 1-3, Jarret Kevton 1-5, Robert Ismil 1-5, Jordan Brownlow 3-3, team 1-(-4); BLH-Dawson 2-24, Tanner Edwards 2-20

Passing: V-Jones 5-7-144, Tate Bounds 1-1-4; BLH-Brad Ebbers 16-27-108

Receiving: V-Schluttner 3-40, Blaha 2-104, Tyler Willis 1-4 ; BLH-Jake Pettit 11-101

JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 218-855-5856 or jeremy.millsop@brainerddispatch.com . Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop .

Covering the Brainerd lakes area sports scene for the past 23 years.
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