The Concordia Lutheran football team's offense is on the verge of being unfair.
With running back Peterson Kerlegrand back to full health in the postseason, the Cadets’ offensive options just don’t stop. As shown in their 62-27 win over West Lafayette in the Class 3A high school regional championship game Friday at Zollner Stadium, it’s hard to slow Concordia, let alone shut them down.
It will be a monumental task next Friday for the Garrett Railroaders in the semistate game at Garrett.
The numbers are staggering. Concordia (11-2) put up 578 yards in total offense against West Lafayette, an average of 9.6 yards per play. That’s nearly a first down per play. The Cadets are averaging 52 points per game in the postseason.
After a tight first quarter – Concordia led 21-20 after West Lafayette scored to open the second quarter – the Cadets found their groove and never looked back.
Morrison was 13-for-13 for 193 yards and three touchdowns in the first half, and he finished 18 of 24 for 343 yards.
Morrison's play has been a catalyst and rallying point all season. The renewed health of Kerlegrand takes the Cadets’ offense to a higher level.
Kerlegrand was injured in a loss to Snider on Sept. 2 and, while he played through the nagging aches and pains, he wasn’t at full strength until the Yorktown game to open sectional play on Oct. 21.
Kerlegrand rushed 25 times for 216 yards and five touchdowns against West Lafayette.
“It felt great,” Kerlegrand said. “I haven’t felt like this in a long time.”
The impact of Kerlegrand’s running can’t be overstated. Morrison is a heck of a passer. He uses a variety of receivers. Colton Grahovac caught seven passes for 175 yards, Mark Mallers three for 79 yards and Tysen Chambers three for 76 yards on Friday.
Kerlegrand’s presence forces opposing teams to play the pass honestly, or pay the price if they don’t.
“Now we’ve got a two-pronged attack,” Concordia coach Tim Mannigel said. “There were a few times where they emptied the box, using three down lineman and a linebacker. If it’s four in the box, we’re going to run it with him.”
It’s almost a no-win situation for an opposing coach.
“I can empathize,” Mannigel said. “I don’t know what I’d do, either. We’ve got weapons. It’s huge.”
The Cadets also have a team that adapts quickly and figures out how to counter opponents.
West Lafayette played with a hurry-up, no-huddle offense, running plays seconds after the officials put the ball down. It worked early with three scores.
Then Concordia's defenders started to sniff out what was going on.
Mannigel tried to prepare his defense for West Lafayette's style, but his team lacks the depth and talent on the scout team to simulate it in practice.
“Early on, they were blocking down on us and we hadn’t seen that a lot,” Mannigel said. “We weren’t really able to adapt very well. But once we saw what they were doing and it became a repetitive thing, our defensive line was able to stop their inside zone-run play.”
Concordia led 28-20 when the Cadets first forced West Lafayette to punt. Three plays later, Morrison hit Mallers for a 48-yard touchdown. The Cadets forced another punt. Two plays after that, Grahovac took a lateral from Morrison and threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Mallers. It was 41-20 and all but over.
“Our line is great and Peter is one of the best quarterbacks around,” Grahovac said. “All we have to do is get open and he’ll get it there. We knew our defense would come through at some point and the offense just had to score on every single drive.”
Perhaps Garrett coach Chris DePew will be able to come up with a strategy to slow down the Cadets. Maybe he has a few pass-rush tricks to keep Morrison from having so much time to throw. Maybe his secondary can smother the Cadets’ receivers. Maybe his front line will bottle up Kerlegrand.
Or maybe it’s impossible for any Class 3A team to slow Concordia this season.
“We’re a team that plays with confidence,” Mannigel said. “When you have confidence, who knows where you can go?”
One more dominating offensive performance and Concordia will go where it’s never gone before: The state finals.
This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Reggie Hayes at firstname.lastname@example.org.