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High School Football: Pirates prove too potent for Bears

The No. 2 seeded Verndale Pirates hosted No. 7 Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale in the Section 4, Nine-man Quarterfinals.

Verndale Pirate Football celebrating.
Verndale Pirate Jaden Schulke celebrates with Tryce Russell after scoring a touchdown while teammates Adam Unland and Torii Hagen look on Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022, during their playoff game with the Bertha-Hewitt Bears at Mahlen Field in Verndale.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
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VERNDALE — Mike Mahlen was looking for something specific Tuesday, Oct. 25.

He finally saw it in the second half. Not so much because the No. 7 seeded Bertha-Hewitt Bears’ defense was holding its own against the No. 2 Verndale Pirates. It was mainly because Verndale rarely had the ball in the first half.

The Pirates ran just 14 offensive plays in the opening half, but still eliminated the Bears 40-6 in the Section 4, Nine-Man Quarterfinals.

Mahlen had three things he wanted to see his team check off Tuesday. physicality, speed and smarts. On a third and 13 play of Verndale’s first possession of the second half, the Pirates ran a screen play to fullback Corby Kern who rumbled for 24 yards and a first down. On its next play, Verndale handed the ball off to Jaden Schulke who sprinted for 22 yards and finished the run with a powerful exclamation point to a 22-yard gain. Tyce Russell then got the call and ran 11 yards around the edge for another first down. That set up Verndale quarterback Shawn Schmitz who danced into the end zone from 7 yards out to had the Pirates a 24-0 lead.

“That first drive of the second half we went bing, bing, bing,” Mahlen said. “We ran over people and we blocked. We’re capable of doing that all of the time. We just have to do it. There was so much difference from tonight to last Wednesday (a 28-16 victory over Brandon Evansville). I don’t know what the heck was going on.

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Verndale football player carries the ball
Verndale Pirate Jaden Schulke runs the ball past Bertha-Hewitt Bear Michael Proell during playoff action at Mahlen Field Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022, in Verndale.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

“We asked them to play fast, play physical and play smart. The first half, we played fast and physical. We didn’t play too smart. The second half, I didn’t see too many mental mistakes.”

Verndale’s next possession lasted just one play as Schmitz hit Jeremy Haskin for a 57-yard touchdown pass and a 32-0 advantage.

After a Schmitz interception, Verndale scored four plays later on a Kern 3-yard burst up the middle to induce running time thanks to a 40-0 lead.

“Our line was blocking and doing their thing,” Schmitz said. “Our running backs were running hard and hitting people. It was a good team win and that’s it. We had six or seven guys out with injury and had a bunch of sophomores step up and a freshman running back doing their thing. They stepped up.”

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The Pirates finished with 296 yards of offense on just 30 players. Bertha-Hewitt practiced a bit of ball control as they held the ball for 60 plays and gained 208 yards. The Bears never threatened to score, however, until their final drive. The nine-play, 59-yard drive was helped by a 15-yard facemask penalty and finally concluded when quarterback Trenton Becker broke the end zone for a 1-yard score.

Bertha-Hewitt opened the game with a 13-play drive that ate 10 minutes of the first quarter. The drive ended when Verndale’s Adam Umland recovered a fumble on the Vendale 20. Nine plays later Kern scored his first touchdown from 24 yards out to give Verndale an 8-0 lead.

“Their first series, they kept the ball and ran about 10 minutes which was to their advantage,” Mahlen said. “We didn’t give up any big plays. They’re 0-8, but they’re capable of being a better team. They played us twice and I think we got their best game both times.

“It was very important to get this win, especially the way we played last week. We needed to get our act together. This is what I thought we were capable of. This is how I thought this team could play and we did. I’m glad Bertha gave us a good game.”

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Verndale’s next possession was a one-play 62-yard sprint by Schulke for a 16-0 halftime score. Schulke finished with 137 yards rushing on just seven carries.

“We struggled last week,” Schmitz said. “Our practice wasn’t the best. Coach had a talk with us and we got our heads in the game and today we got the win.”

Verndale Pirate players tacking a runner
Verndale Pirates Hunter Strom, Logan Dick and Blade Sumstad bring down a Bertha-Hewitt player Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022, during playoff action at Mahlen Field in Verndale.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Bertha-Hewitt 0 0 0 6 -- 6

Verndale 8 8 16 8 -- 40

First quarter

V-Corby Kern 24 run (Jaden Schulke run) 1:07

Second quarter

V-Schulke 62 run (Torii Hagen pass from Shawn Schmitz) 10:49

Third quarter

V-Schmitz 7 run (Schmitz run) 7:38

V-Jeremy Haskin 53 pass form Schmitz (Connor Schmitz pass from Shwan Schmitz) 2:50

Fourth quarter

V-Kern 3 run (Hollister Heinz run) 11:58

BH-Trenton Becker 1 run (run failed) 2:13

Team statistics

Rushes-yards: V 23-205, BH 52-182

Pass comp-att-int-yds: V 5-7-0-91, BH 4-8-1-26

Total offense: V 30-296, BH 60-208

Individual leaders

Rushing: V-Jaden Schulke 7-137, Corby Kern 6-38, Tyce Russell 1-11, Shwan Schmitz 1-7, Evan Jares 1-13, Hollister Heinz 4-15, Lincoln Finck 1-1, William Wall 2-9; BH-Cayden Kimber 18-76, Deagen Captain 26-97, Trenton Becker 5-16, Carter Wilhelmi 1-(-4), team 2-(-2)

Passing: V-Schmitz 5-7-91; BH-Becker 4-8-26

Receiving: V-Jeremy Haskin 2-61, Schulke 1-3, Kern 2-27; BH-Collin Moller 1-5, Kimber 1-10, Captain 1-9, Wilhelmi 1-12

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

Verndale 40, Bertha-Hewitt 6

Key: Verndale scored on five of its first six possessions

Overall: V 8-1, BH 0-9

Next: Verndale vs. Rothsay/Hillcrest Lutheran in Section 4, Nine-Man Semifinals 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 29.

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