With so much speed and a deep cast of big-time scoring threats, defense is not where the state-bound Althoff Crusaders have built their reputation.
But Althoff defenders left a very definite impression on Mater Dei during the Crusaders’ 48-20 Class 4A state semifinal win over the Knights Saturday.
“I have to give it up to those linebackers — they are so fast — and their safeties, too,” said Mater Dei quarterback Colin Schuetz. “I’m really proud that we didn’t give up and kept battling to the end, but I have to give it up to that team and their defense. They are really good.”
Mater Dei scored the first and last points of the game — first on a 75-yard slant pass from Schuetz to Josh Haberer, then when backup quarterback Jake Timmermann broke free on a 73-yard scoring run.
It's like I told my guys, we didn’t press pause on our game in Week 3 — we improved too. Our defense now and our defense in Week 3 is totally different ...
Ken Turner, Althoff head football coach
Take out those two plays, though, and Althoff held Mater Dei to just 78 yards of offense on 26 plays.
“It really isn’t a surprise to me — the guys on our side of the ball all know what we can do,” said senior linebacker Bryson Strong. “Coaches told us what to do and we prepared all week. We just focused on hitting our keys, making plays and playing fast.”
Althoff defeated Mater Dei earlier in the season, prompting the Knights to change to a more multiple option offense that helped them overcome a 1-2 start to their season and, eventually, carry them past a pair of undefeated playoff opponents and into Saturday’ state semifinal.
State Championship Tickets Althoff will be pre-selling tickets for the Class 4A state championship football game in the athletic office from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday and Tuesday. Tickets are $10 each. The game will be played at Huskie Stadium in Dekalb, Friday at 7 p.m.
But Althoff held Schuetz to just 3-of-12 passing for 108 yards. The Crusaders intercepted him twice, the second of which senior cornerback Jeremy Savannah returned 42 yards for a touchdown.
Schuetz also was held to just seven yards on 15 carries.
“Our plan was to stop the quarterback because since the last time we played them, he’s been a lot more mobile,” said junior linebacker Chris Branson. “If he was going to beat us, we wanted him to have to beat us with his arm and not his feet.”
Brendan “Butchy” Timmermann, Mater Dei’s top rusher and receiver with more than 1,700 total yards of offense, was held without a pass reception and to just 26 yards on seven carries.
It really isn't a surprise to me — the guys on our side of the ball all know what we can do.
Bryson Strong, Althoff senior linebacker
“They were fired up the last couple of weeks with all the talk about how they wanted another shot at us and how they improved so much,” said Althoff head coach Ken Turner. “It’s like I told my guys, we didn’t press pause on our game in Week 3 — we improved too. Our defense now and our defense in Week 3 is totally different, which is a tribute to those guys and the hard work they’ve put in.”
Mater Dei coach Jim Stiebel said the Crusaders’ defense also got an assist from the elements, specifically a 23 mph wind from the northwest. But he gave Althoff credit for keying in on the Knights’ running game.
“With the elements we knew we’d have to run the ball because we couldn’t throw it with the wind in our face,” he said. “They were coming up and pressuring our run. We got the outside zone a little bit, but not enough.”
Special teams played a role in the Crusaders’ win. Outside linebacker Trevor Mosely recovered an on-sides kick that led to Althoff’s second touchdown inside the first two minutes of the second half.
Savannah’s pick-six 13 seconds later turned a comfortable lead into an insurmountable 42-6 lead.
“The ball was tipped at the line and was intercepted,” Schuetz said. “I tried to keep everybody up and we battled the whole way through, but I think we all knew then that it was going to be really hard for us to come back.”
State Championship Tickets
Althoff will be pre-selling tickets for the Class 4A state championship football game in the athletic office from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday and Tuesday. Tickets are $10 each. The game will be played at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb on Friday at 7 p.m.