Inconsistent offense led to Warriors' 5-5 record
Inconsistency on the offensive side of the ball resulted in a .500 record for the United North Central football team this season.
The Warriors had to rebuild at several key positions following last year's first Section 8AA title for the Menahga and Sebeka cooperative and a trip to the semifinals of the state Class AA playoffs. Despite having to move players around, the Warriors went 4-4 during the regular season before advancing to the section semifinals to finish with a 5-5 overall record.
In the season opener, the Warriors had four turnovers and were held to 171 rushing yards and 187 total yards in a 13-6 loss to Park Rapids. UNC opened the season rated No. 20 in the state Class AA poll.
In Week 2, UNC compiled 292 rushing yards and 358 total yards in a 40-0 victory over Pelican Rapids. The Warriors overcame two turnovers by rushing for 279 yards and compiling 353 total yards in a 37-28 win over Wadena-Deer Creek.
Staples-Motley recovered three fumbles and held the Warriors to 241 rushing yards and 298 total yards in a 30-14 win in Week 4. UNC responded in Week 5 by compiling 286 rushing yards and a season-high 420 total yards in a 42-0 rout over Long Prairie-Grey Eagle.
Ottertail Central held the Warriors to 76 rushing yards and 99 total yards in a 21-0 victory in Week 6 before Osakis held UNC to 59 rushing yards and 133 total yards in a 37-14 victory in Week 7.
UNC ended the regular season with a 14-6 win over Frazee as the offense rushed for 107 yards and 233 total yards.
Going 4-4 during the regular season gave UNC the No. 5 seed for the section playoffs. The Warriors opened section play with a 30-14 win at No. 4 Warroad as the offense compiled 147 rushing yards and 255 total yards.
In the section semifinals, Barnesville's defense forced five turnovers and held UNC's offense to season lows of 54 rushing yards and 65 total yards in a 32-0 victory. Barnesville led 6-0 at the half before taking control in the second half.
Leading the Warriors' offense this season were seniors Kirby Hrdlicka, Caleb Puttonen, George Lausten, Al Pietila, Colt Hansen and Canton Matson; junior James Clark and Owen Anderson; sophomore Mason Dailey; and freshman Brandon Miller.
Hrdlicka missed the final four games of the regular season, but returned for the playoffs and led the Warriors in rushing with 704 yards on 144 carries and seven TDs. Hrdlicka also had eight receptions for 66 yards and a TD in scoring 60 points.
Clark started the season as the Warriors' quarterback and completed 21 of 48 passes for 337 yards and five TDs and rushed 56 times for 496 yards and four TDs in the first five games. Clark also returned a kickoff for a TD and finished with 41 points.
Puttonen took over the quarterbacking duties in the final five games and completed 40 of 95 passes for 352 yards and five TDs and rushed 36 times for 76 yards and three TDs.
Lausten rushed 53 times for 174 yards and two TDs, Anderson carried the ball 41 times for 170 yards and Pietila had 26 carries for 85 yards.
Anderson was the Warriors' top receiver, catching 22 passes for 229 yards and three TDs while Pietila had eight receptions for 164 yards and two TDs. Dailey added six receptions for 136 yards and two TDs while Miller had 11 receptions for 70 yards and two TDs.
Hansen and Matson led the way on the offensive line.
Leading the defense were Hansen (60 solo tackles, 25 assists), Matson (34 solo tackles, 18 assists, 11 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, two quarterback sacks), Lausten (29 solo tackles, 17 assists, five tackles for loss), Anderson (37 solo tackles, 13 sacks, seven tackles for loss), Puttonen (28 solo tackles, 15 assists, three forced fumbles, two recovered fumbles), Pietila (35 solo tackles), Hrdlicka (25 solo tackles, 10 assists, five tackles for loss, two interceptions, two sacks), sophomore Zach Floyd (28 solo tackles), junior Justen Berttunen (21 solo tackles, 10 assists, five tackles for loss), junior Caleb Mostrom (23 solo tackles, four tackles for loss), senior Ethan Boyer (17 solo tackles, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries), Miller (13 solo tackles), Dailey (15 solo tackles) and Clark (11 solo tackles).
Also seeing some time on offense and defense were Floyd, sophomore Isaac Tellers, freshman Tristan Aho and eighth grader Charlie Hodge while junior Cade Lacoe and sophomores Brady Vry, Mason Bradley, Garin Matson, Brock Kako and Elliot Mickelson recorded points on defense.
Hansen and Anderson earned Section 8AA honors and joined Lausten and Matson as Midwest Blue District players. Earning Midwest Blue District honorable mention honors were Pietila and Puttonen. Hansen was named the Warriors' Defensive MVP while Hrdlicka was named UNC's Offensive MVP.
Osakis and Ottertail Central went 5-1 to top the district standings while Staples-Motley followed at 4-2. UNC and Wadena-Deer Creek both went 3-3 while Frazee went 1-5 and Long Prairie-Grey Eagle finished at 0-6.