Keyser Wenthold narrowly escapes a Houston defender as he carries the ball down the field in the Cougars’ section quarterfinals game last Tuesday night in Mabel.  HEATHER KLEIBOER/NEWS-RECORD
Keyser Wenthold narrowly escapes a Houston defender as he carries the ball down the field in the Cougars’ section quarterfinals game last Tuesday night in Mabel. HEATHER KLEIBOER/NEWS-RECORD
Fourth-seed Mabel-Canton fell victim to its own fumbles and number five seed Houston's kick-off returns in the section quarterfinals of the Section 1 nine-man tourney last Tuesday night. The final score in the Oct.22 event was 27-14, with the Hurricanes coming out on top.

The Cougars fumbled twice and Houston four times, but the 'Canes recovered them all including two for scores. The only Houston turnover came on a muffed punt recovered by Weston Whalen near midfield.

Those two Cougar bobbles came on M-C's first two possessions. Hunter Johnson returned the opening kickoff 26 yards to start a 39-yard march that ended on a fumble at the Houston 15. After Houston punted the Cougars back to their own 13, Hurricane cornerback Brady Ramin-Pierce picked up a fumble at the 13 and scored.

M-C came right back with a 10-play, 66-yard drive to tie it 6-6 with Johnson's one-yard run.

Field position again went against the home team when Houston went 49 yards before punting the Cougars back to their own five. Three plays later, M-C punted out to their own 28. Houston running back Dylan Lee took a hand-off and ran nine yards for another go-ahead Houston touchdown. Going for a two-point conversion, Lee fumbled into the end zone where Sam Schneider recovered for the two points and a 14-6 lead just 21 seconds before halftime.

That disappointing finish to the first half was followed by a special teams disappointment at the beginning of the second half. Lee returned the second-half kickoff 36 yards to the Cougar 45. Five plays later, Sam Mlsna ran the final nine yards to make it 21-6.

M-C answered a touchdown with a touchdown. Collin O'Bieglo completed three of four passes and capped a 63-yard drive with a 20-yard touchdown toss to Mac Nelson and M-C trailed 21-12.

But Houston had an answer for an answer. Lee took the kickoff 89 yards to make it 27-12.

After the teams traded fourth-down defensive stands, the Cougars launched their longest drive of the game, a 15-play, 71-yard possession. Johnson, for the second time, scored from the one.

A third failed extra-point attempt (2 kicks, one pass) left M-C one touchdown short of Houston, but needing to score twice to erase a 9-point (27-18) deficit. Unfortunately for the home crowd, the Cougar offense stalled on its only remaining possession before Houston ran out the clock, taking a knee on the M-C eight.

Houston totaled 333 rushing yards, out-gaining M-C overall 365 to 289. Jergenson ran 18 times for 132 yards.

M-C had a balanced attack with 144 yards rushing and 145 passing. Johnson rushed 26 times for 122 yards. O'Bieglo completed 12 of 27 passes with Donnie Lind catching eight for 93 yards.

It was a reversal of game plans from the team's earlier meeting (a 26-20 Cougar win) when Houston attempted 26 passes and M-C 13. In the play-off rematch, the 'Canes threw only three official passes and M-C 27.

Both teams left the field with 4-5 records. The Hurricanes advanced to the section semi-finals where they were clubbed by number one Spring Grove, 56-6. For the third straight season, the Lions will face Grand Meadow for the section title, this year on Friday, Nov. 1, at 5:30 p.m. at the Rochester Community and Technical College.

Cougar individuals

RUSHING (41-144, 2TD): Hunter Johnson 26-122, 2 TD; Keyser Wenthold 11-21; Mitch Kuhn 1-4; Collin O'Bieglo 3-(-3). PASSING: Collin O'Bieglo 12-27-0 (145 yds, TD). RECEIVING: Donnie Lind 8-93; Mac Nelson 2-32 TD; Hunter Johnson 1-12; Mitch Kuhn 1-8. SACKS: Mason Henry 1.