Owatonna shows Eagles blueprint for playoff success

Apple Valley finishes 6-6 following state quarterfinal loss

Apple Valley players break up an Owatonna pass during the state Class 5A quarterfinals. Photo by Rick Orndorf
Apple Valley players break up an Owatonna pass during the state Class 5A quarterfinals. Photo by Rick Orndorf

There are no secrets – and no shortcuts – to the playoff success Apple Valley’s football team is seeking.

Last week the Eagles saw firsthand what a Prep Bowl contender looks like when they lost 32-0 to Owatonna in the Class 5A quarterfinals at Lakeville North High School.

If the Eagles needed a blueprint for their future, they found it on the other sideline in the Huskies, who were second in Class 5A last season and are ranked first this year.

“They’re a very good football team – big, physical, athletic,” Apple Valley coach Chad Clendening said. “They were able to control the line of scrimmage against us.”

Apple Valley gained about 40 yards in the first half and had 166 for the game. The Huskies were able to contain Apple Valley running back Da’Shawn Lewis, who had more than 500 yards rushing in the Eagles’ first three playoff games. Owatonna held Lewis to 35 yards on 14 carries.

Owatonna running back Aaron Peterson gained 142 yards on 29 carries and scored three touchdowns. Carter McCauley, the goalkeeper for Owatonna’s state tournament-qualifying soccer team, kicked five field goals in the Class 5A quarterfinal.

Apple Valley reached the state quarterfinals for the second year in a row. Last year the Eagles lost to Totino-Grace, which went on beat Owatonna in the championship game. Totino-Grace has since opted up to Class 6A and has reached this week’s semifinals.

Owatonna (11-0) takes on St. Michael-Albertville in the Class 5A semifinals at 2 p.m. Friday at the Metrodome.

Apple Valley finished 6-6. The Eagles won six of their last eight games after starting 0-4.

Clendening said physical development will be a major point of emphasis during the Eagles’ off-season. The Owatonna game showed they need more strength, and the football program also will try to improve the players’ speed and agility by steering as many of them as possible to the track and field program. Jeff Flugum, the football team’s offensive coordinator, is Apple Valley’s new head boys track coach, maintaining a connection between the two programs that has existed for years. Rod Dirth, Flugum’s predecessor as track coach, also was an assistant football coach.

Next year’s Eagles will build around players such as wide receiver/quarterback Matt Morse, linebackers Mitch Dunbar and Zach Robole, and linebacker/running back Kieran McKeag.

Clendening, a former Apple Valley player and assistant coach, completed his first season as head coach. “I was fortunate to come in at a time when we had a great group of seniors who were open to any changes we wanted to make,” the coach said. “The chemistry was really good and they did a great job in the community, spending time with the kids in our youth program.”