Mayo Football secures Section Championship win

Santiago Garza, Staff Writer


After a long battle against the Owatonna Huskies the Mayo Spartans celebrate winning the Section Championship.


When it mattered the most, how did the Mayo Spartans perform against the Owatonna Huskies? As the Spartans got ready to face the Huskies, they had a lot of built up intensity, as this was a team that had beaten the Spartans countless times in the Section Championship. Emotionally this meant a great deal to the team since this was the first time Mayo had been given the opportunity to host the championship, and to the seniors this was going to be the very last game they would experience on Mayo’s ground. Noah Smith, a notable offensive player, stated, “It’s great playing here. We’ve never played at home before for the Section Championship, so I mean it’s great, and losing last year – we’re just hungry. All those losses – you just get hungrier and hungrier for it. It would mean the most; I mean it’s Owatonna, you know, we live for this for sure.”

At the start of the game, both teams failed to score any points on their opening drive, but on the next two, both teams scored a touchdown. For the remainder of the first quarter, Mayo was unable to connect at all offensively, while on the other hand the Huskies scored another touchdown, but the extra point try was blocked.

The Spartans were hoping to come back from the six point deficit to finish the half positively; unfortunately, they were still unable to do anything on offense, while the Huskies put up another ten points on the scoreboard. At this point in the game, the Spartans were down 16 points, which was something they were not used to, and the score was 7-23. 

With eight minutes left on the clock to close the half, the Spartans desperately attempted to make something work. Quarterback Bennett Ellsworth was able to connect a 53 yard touchdown pass to Smith, but the Spartans could not convert the extra point attempt. Still, the tide was beginning to turn, and the team felt themselves getting more and more motivated.

After shutting the Huskies down on defense, Mayo’s offense retook the field. Ellsworth then threw another 53 yard touchdown pass to Cayden Holcomb to close the half, narrowing the deficit to three (20-23). Clearly performing way better at this point in the game, Ellsworth realized that what changed is that he started “believing in the team and the coaches, and knowing what and who we were playing for.”

Bennett Ellsworth gets excited when the play worked according to plan against the Owatonna Huskies.

The Huskies received the ball at the start of the second half, but to their surprise Mayo’s cornerback Jamal Beale stripped the ball out of their receiver’s hands. Beale was able to run into the end zone to put the Spartans back in the lead, with the crowd going wild.

Things grew more intense, as the end of the third quarter approached:  both teams ended up scoring touchdowns, as Noah Smith made a six-yard rushing touchdown, but Mayo’s attempted two-point conversion was unsuccessful, and the score was 32-30.

Noah Smith escapes a crowd of Owatonna tacklers and manages to continue running toward the end zone.

Right from the start of the 4th quarter, the game had grown extremely heated, with both teams visibly irritated with the calls from the referees. Each side knew that at this point, this late in the game, one call could decide the winner. Later in the fourth, Owatonna was able to score a 39 yard field goal, which gave them a one point lead with 9 minutes left in the game (32-33). Everyone in the stadium could feel the tension in the air.

On Mayo’s first offensive play after the Huskies kickoff, Cayden Holcomb went out for a pass, but it appeared that the ball had been overthrown. However Holcomb continued chasing after the ball with all his might, and eventually dove, fully extending his left arm in midair. Miraculously, Holcomb was able to pull the ball into his body, single-handedly securing a huge pass completion for Mayo. On that same drive, Smith broke free for a 32 yard rushing touchdown which put Mayo up by five points, and the score went to 38-33. 

With over seven minutes left in the 4th quarter, the Huskies next offensive series burned over six and a half minutes from the clock. If they would score on this drive, the Spartans would be hard-pressed to come back from that deficit, so the Huskies fought a ferocious battle with Mayo’s defense. Ultimately they were unable to break the Spartans’ will; they could not score: Mayo had finally won the Section Championship for the first time since 1997. When the final whistle blew, it was pandemonium, with everyone celebrating wildly. Over on the scoreboard the lights continued to glow, reflecting the victory, 38-33. The cheering and shouts of triumph echoed into the night sky.

Looking back, around half time, Holcomb had a gut feeling that the team wasn’t going to be let down by that 16 point deficit at the start of the game; “All us knew we had it in us and knew we weren’t gonna go out like that.”

Cayden Holcomb makes a diving, one-handed catch and lands aside a defender.

Noah Smith keeps his feet moving as he strives to get every yard he can get against the Huskies.

The Spartans are now headed to the Quarter Finals in the State Tournament, facing Mahtomedi. The game will take place next Saturday, November 13th, at 12:00 pm in Woodbury, Minnesota. For students interested in taking the fan bus, the permission form can be picked up at the athletic office and will cost $15. Pep bus rides will be sold on Tuesday and Wednesday (Nov. 9 and 10) during the school day. Students must purchase a game ticket online at and show proof of purchase when purchasing a pep bus ride. The cost for the game itself will cost $7. The bus load time will be at 9:30 in the morning, and the bus will leave at 9:45 from Door 6.

All photos courtesy of Joe Ahlquist