Stewartville wins first title in program history

Prep Bowl

Class AAA

Stewartville 43, Annandale 13

Stewartville’s dominating season ends

with first state title

To get an idea of how dominant Stewartville was in Class AAA football this season, one needs to look at just one stat: The Tigers had more wins than touchdowns allowed.

After dropping down to Class 3A from 4A, it didn’t take long for Stewarville to win their first state title in program history after defeating Annandale 43-13 Saturday at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Their last appearance in a state championship game was 1986.

The Tigers broke the game open in the fourth quarter after scoring two touchdowns just 21 seconds apart.

Both teams battled back and forth early on.

Stewartville senior quarterback Ayden Helder created a good offensive tempo during their first drive. Helder connected with junior Parker Wangen for 22 yards to get them to Annandale’s 28. A couple of plays later, he threw a screen pass to senior Carter Miller, his blockers creating a wide-open path for a 17-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead.

Annandale looked to the run game early as Nick Olsen showed his strength breaking three tackles and going 21 yards on the second play of their first offensive drive. After several first downs, they found themselves at the goal line and Connor Lampi easily trotted into the endzone to tie the contest 7-7 with two minutes left in the 1st quarter.

Shortly after transitioning to the second quarter, it was an unsuccessful drive for Annandale without a push on the offensive line. While Stewartville disrupted their offensive run strategy, Miller remained a potent offensive weapon in the backfield, effectively accelerating through holes. He took an end around, cutting inside, and ran a defender over into the end zone after landing them on the 4-yard line. After the drive, he had a total of 100 yards, 14 carries, and two touchdowns with still four minutes left in the quarter. The Tigers went into the half 14-7 with 238 total offensive yards while holding the Cardinals to 84.

“Stewartville got their momentum and never gave it up, and they are best when they get early momentum in games,” said Annandale lineman Vince Rasset.

Coming out of the break, Annandale’s offense continued to struggle, mainly with the pass. On a 3rd and 10, Nick Walter tried throwing a screen pass but was tipped by Stewartville’s defensive linemen. Walter caught the ball in mid-air and launched it downfield, only for it to be intercepted by junior Jayce Klug.

The Tiger’s offense continued to thrive both on the ground and in the air. The offensive line created space and time for Helder and for receivers to get open. Two short passes and a couple of good runs landed them in Cardinal territory. Miller scored his third touchdown of the game after blasting up the middle untouched. Stewartville went up 21-7 with under five minutes left in the 3rd quarter, still plenty of time, however, for Annandale to mount a comeback.

Going into the 4th quarter, Stewartville’s fast defense persisted to give Annandale’s offense trouble. Walter threw a quick pass to Lampi as he was swarmed and hit hard, coughing up the football that was recovered by senior Tegan Malone at Annandale’s 29. Once more, the Tigers utilized the passing game. Helder, unpressured, found Blake Turner for a 12-yard pass to get them to the 2-yard line. Helder finished the drive with a QB sneak for Stewartville to go up 29-7 after a two-point conversion.

They kept the ball rolling on defense with Klug getting his second interception. Refusing to slow down, they aired it out on the first play of the next drive with Helder throwing a bomb to Malone for a 44-yard touchdown extending their lead 36-7.

Senior QB Ayden Helder celebrates Stewartville’s first state football championship. PHOTO BY JACKSON BOLINE

Stewartville scored again with senior Tarin Conlin, who had four carries for 48 yards on the drive, following the use of three different running backs. With six seconds remaining in the game, the Cardinals scored in their final attempt.

In the end, the Stewartville Tigers defeated the Annandale Cardinals 43–13 in dominant fashion, something they have done to opponents all season.

The win was their 14th and in those 14 games they allowed just 11 touchdowns to be scored against them. They outscored opponents on the season 583-76.

Stewartville head coach Garrett Mueller said it truly was a team effort from day one.

“We have great depth on offense, defense, and special teams,” he said. “We are able to play many different types of schemes because we have trust in everyone on the roster.”

In the end, the Tigers were just too much to handle for the Cardinals who put together a great season and finished 12-1.

“They’re big, they’re physical,” said Annandale Head Coach Matt Walter. “We had a couple bad drives, and as coaches we know we didn’t do a good job sticking to the game plan.”

Miller had 144 yards on 24 carries and two touchdowns to lead the Tigers to their first title. Helder had eight rushes for 31 yards and a touchdown and also threw for 206 yards and two scores. Helder is one of 10 finalists for the Mr. Football Award.

“It’s still surreal to me to be a state champ and a Mr. Football finalist,” said Helder when asked about it postgame. “It’s very special and I will always be proud of those moments, but I have my team to thank all year.  At the end of the day we’re a family.”

While it is Stewartville’s first state title as a football program, it was Mueller’s second having won as a player in Wisconsin.

“It feels amazing,” he said. “I won a state title as player but to do it as a coach is maybe more special. The thing I’m most proud of of this group is the impact they have on the community.”

Stewartville  7  7  7  22 – 43

Annandale  7  0  0  6 – 13


Rushing: Stewartville – Carter Miller 24-144-2TD, Ayden Helder 8-31-TD, Tarin Conlin 4-48-TD. Annandale: Connor Lampi 7-20-TD, Nick Walter 10-29, Nick Olson 2-24.

Passing: Stewartville – Helder 15-23-0-206-2TD. Annandale – Mike Kovall 4-6-0-72-TD, Nick Walter 7-15-2-42-0.

Receiving: Stewartville – Tegan Malone 1-44-TD, Parker Wangen 3-39, Henry Tschetter 5-74, Carter Miller 2-13-TD. Annandale – Joe Healy 1-10, Isaak Eenhuis 1-39, Brandon Valdez 1-4, Thomas Westman 1-9, Jack Danzeisen 1-4, Gabe Westman 2-29-TD, Brandon cooper 2-11, Connor Lampi 2-8.