WASECA — Although Waseca was in control for most of Saturday's Section 2AAAA football game against Marshall, the visiting Tigers hung around for more than three quarters.
The Bluejays eventually wore the visitors down, recording a 33-6 victory to advance to the section title game on Friday in Hutchinson.
"That's who we are; we're a second-half team," Waseca coach Brad Wendland said. "Every game this year we've played better in the last two quarters.
"We definitely left some plays on the field in the first half but defensively we were pretty strong throughout. We narrowed our play list a little bit at halftime and that helped get our offense going."
After forcing a 3-and-out to start the game, Waseca quarterback Thomas O'Neil and the rest of the Bluejays took over near midfield. Thirteen plays later, including three fourth-down conversions, Brady Bomsta darted into the end zone from the 1 and Waseca led 6-0.
Neither team scored again until just before halftime. That's when O'Neil floated a perfect 11-yard strike in the end zone to Tyler Kolander for a 12-0 Bluejays lead at the break. The drive was aided by two big penalties covering 30 yards against Marshall.
"We were misfiring a little bit on offense in the first half," O'Neil said. "Fortunately our defense was strong again. They've been playing well all season, keeping us in games and getting the ball back for us."
Marshall got on the board at 10:18 of the third quarter. The score was set up by Reece Winkelman's 39-yard interception return to the 1-yard line.
Quarterback Brad Bahlman kept it for the final yard. The PAT kick was blocked by Jimmy Ebertowski, keeping the score 12-6 in favor of Waseca.
The Jays answered back right away on a 3-yard scoring run up the gut at 6:51 of the third, increasing the lead to 18-6. The march included an 18-yard pass to Jacob Laube between two defenders and a 16-yard sweep of the left side by Dylan Hermanstorfer.
When Waseca added another score, on another short keeper by O'Neil, the outcome was secure. The quarterback helped set up the score with a 41-yard scamper along the left sideline.
The final TD came on an 18-yard sweep around right end by Hermanstorfer. Another 15-yard run by O'Neill highlighted the drive.
O'Neill finished with 145 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 25 carries. The Jays finished with 261 total yards on the ground.
Kolander led the Waseca defense with 10 tackles, including seven solos. Jake Busse and Bomsta were close behind with nine tackles apiece.
"Our main goal today was to limit what their quarterback could do to us," Busse said. "We knew he was a good runner and he was fast so we thought if we could keep him from doing too much damage we would be in good shape."
"We really didn't need to make any adjustments at halftime. We just wanted to keep doing what we were doing and it worked our for us."
Wendland said Busse had an excellent game against Marshall.
"He was pretty disruptive out there today. He's a great player.
"When your best players are also your hardest workers, you have something good. That's what we have going for us right now."
Hutchinson and Waseca are now the only two undefeated teams left in the Class AAAA playoffs. They were ranked 1 and 2 in the state in the final poll and are the top two seeds in the section.