If Andover’s Section 4-5A opening round 42-3 win against Irondale is a sign of things to come, whoever plays the No. 2 seed in the final might want to take notice.
Huskies coach Rich Wilkie wanted to see a quick start with a balanced run and pass offense in the semifinal and that’s precisely what Andover did.
“It went the we wanted it to go by taking the opening kickoff right down the field with a good mix which is essential to our success,” Wilkie said.
A well-rested and prepared Huskies squad (6-3) built a 14-0 lead in the first quarter on three-yard scores by running back Derek McLaughlin, who added a third touchdown in the third quarter and finished with 151 yards rushing.
Senior quarterback Connor Wilkie completed 15-of-26 passes for 198 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
Receiver Justin Freyholtz pulled in both touchdowns and finished with three catches for 30 yards. Chris Larson had seven catches for 69 yards and Austin Lorch added three catches for 64 yards.
Defensively, the Huskies gave up a season-low three points and made several key stops, including twice inside the red zone before halftime.
According to Wilkie, the defense as an entire unit stood out including the defensive line play by Jake Nelson and Corey Parsons to control the line of scrimmage against a run-first Knights team.
Defensive back Kyle Kettler provided a big play early in the third quarter to keep the momentum going for the home team. He stripped the ball and returned it 27 yards for a touchdown to make it 27-3.
The opening round bye that went along with a No. 2 seed gave the Huskies valuable down time.
“It was really big to get that bye for the first time,” Wilkie said. “You could tell how fresh the kids were with respect to health and conditioning. It showed up in the game and it was worth earning.”
In the final, Andover will host No. 4 seed Spring Lake Park, which knocked off top-seed Mahtomedi 15-14. The Panthers won the section semifinal meeting against the Huskies last year 27-26 in Spring Lake Park.
Wilkie said while the irony is there of a section rematch, “it’s about a section championship more than the opponent.
“That has more to do with it,” he said. “Playing at home is going to be nice, especially at home in the playoffs. We’re healthy and ready to go.”
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