Andale coach Dylan Schmidt used last season’s playoff loss to McPherson as a motivational tool leading up to Friday’s semifinal game in Class 4A, Division I.
The Indians fueled that motivation to create three touchdowns and force five McPherson turnovers in a 20-13 victory, putting Andale in the state final with a chance to win its first championship in three years. Andale (12-0) will play powerful Bishop Miege in the final game.
“We talked about (last season’s loss) a lot because at the end of the day for us is we’re playing a lot of guys both ways,” Schmidt said. “We knew we were going to be driving. That’s that extra fuel that you need in the fourth quarter to be able to rally through.”
Andale found the matchup they wanted on offense with McPherson’s secondary in the first quarter. Quarterback Ethan Baalman connected with Mason Fairchild for a 42-yard touchdown after Andale’s defense recovered a fumble.
Baalman hit a wide-open Fairchild again on Andale’s next possession, using the exact same play that allowed Fairchild to score off a 62-yard catch. Schmidt said that he inserted earlier this week to use specifically for Friday’s game.
“We were just trying to ground and pound like we normally do,” Baalman said. “We figured we could slip (Fairchild) out a couple of times and he was wide open both times.”
Just as McPherson was gaining offensive momentum, Andale quickly swung in towards their side. Senior defensive back Peyton Niemann picked off Kyler Hoppes’ pass that put Andale at midfield.
Andale’s offense capitalized off Niemann’s play, with Baalman throwing to Andrew Mohr for a 20-yard touchdown that gave the Indians a 20-6 lead with 1:01 left in the first half. Andale took away McPherson’s final first half possession, with Parker Bruce coming down with a deflected pass.
“That’s been our MO all year,” Schmidt said. “You look at our turnover margin, that’s the biggest thing that’s been the key to our success. It’s just coach (Tim) Fairchild getting them in the right positions and kids going out and making plays. We’ve got big, physical kids that can run and are athletic and the ball comes out.”
With McPherson shutting down the Andale offense, Andale was once again relying on their defense to make the needed plays. McPherson beat the defense by scoring off a 14-yard run by Jace Kinnamon to make it a one-possession game.
After a couple of Drew Labertew’s runs put McPherson at Andale’s 23-yard line, Andale ended the third quarter by forcing an incomplete pass. When McPherson came marching down the field on their next two possessions, an all-out blitz payed off for the Indians.
Andale’s blitz forced a McPherson fumble in the red zone, giving the ball back to Andale for a plan to run the clock out. McPherson managed to get the ball back, where Hoppes hit Gabe Hoover on an 18-yard reception that kept the Bullpups’ drive alive on fourth down.
The Indians brought more quarterback pressure on McPherson’s final possession, allowing Andale to come down with an interception with 1:20 left.
“We pride ourselves on 11 men flying to the football,” Bruce said. “When you have 11 guys hitting you over, over and over again, your body fatigues and one of those times you’re going to lose the ball. When you lose that, we make sure who didn’t hit that man is going to get that ball and that’s what we’ve been doing all season long.”
Andale 13 7 0 0 -- 20
McPherson 6 0 7 0 -- 13
A--Fairchild 42 pass from Baalman (kick missed)
A-- Fairchild 62 pass from Baalman (kick good)
M-- Hoover 14 pass from Hoppes (kick missed)
A-- Mohr 20 pass from Baalman (kick good)
M-- Kinnamon 14 run (kick good)
Rushing--Andale, Baalman 11-21, Mohr 6-5, Horsch 1-5, Jansen 2-3, Simon 8-2, Meyer 1-1, Hunter 4-(-15). McPherson, Kinnamon 18-58, Labertew 6-43, Hoppes 7-24, Nikkel 1-1, .
Passing--Andale, Baalman 7-14-3-203, Hunter 3-6-37. McPherson, Hoppes 15-27-1-219.
Receiving-- Andale, Fairchild 2-2-104, Bruce 5-95, Jansen 1-11, Mohr 1-1-20, 1-10 Niemann. McPherson, Hoover 10-1-123, Huff 2-37, Diggs 3-34, Wiard 1-22