United bows out of playoffs in first round

Marty Touchette
United's Chris Olson battles for the football Nov. 1 against Princeville.

The United Red Storm ran head first into a buzz saw Friday night, dropping a 41-6 decision to the Princeville Princes in the opening round of the playoffs.

"That was a very good team. They have good football players, we had to play perfect to beat them," United Coach Tim Engebretson said.

The Red Storm fell behind 20-0 in the first quarter. Princeville returned the opening kick-off to the United 39-yard line. Only a diving tackle by Chris Olson temporariliy saved the Princes first touchdown.

Princeville drove to the United 20, before the Red Storm defense stiffened. But Princeville scored on a fourth-and-9 fade pattern - a perfect pass from quarterback Drew Martin to Dan Rouph - to score its first touchdown.

United responded with an effective pass to move into Princeville territory with a bootleg to to Josh Winston, but the drive stalled.

On the next drive, Princeville's Carter Oltman (11-201 and two touchdowns) scored on a 48-yard touchdown run to make it 14-0.

Early in the game, United could not stop the Princeville passing attack. The defense focused on stopping the run, leaving the defensive backs in man-to-man coverage. So, after a United three-and-out, Princeville used two long pass plays, including a 13-yard touchdown on a slant pass from Martin to Jacob Meischner, to take a 20-0 lead. Martin was efficient, completing 7-11 passes for 101 yards and a pair of scores in the game.

"We were fighting an uphill battle all game. We're not a come from behind offense," Engebretson said.

Any chance United had of getting back in the game was effectively ended on the next drive, which featured a pair of controversial calls. United opened the second quarter with a long drive to the Princeville11-yard line. On second-and-nine, Patrick Olin dropped back to pass and was flushed from the pocket. He made it to the three-yard line, before officials ruled the play dead, saying an inadvertent whistle had blown at least six seconds before the play was stopped.

The drive ended on a fourth-and-10 yard pass that went into the endzone and appeared to be caught by Eric Olson, but was ruled incomplete.

The controversial calls took place in the same corner of the endzone where a United touchdown was called back the last time they met  Princeville in the playoffs.

"We all make mistakes," Engebretson said after the game. Following the call, the Red Storm was hit with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Princeville immediately responded with a 53-yard-touchdown run by Oltman, making it 27-0 at the half.

United was led offensively by Aaron McDonald, who had 54 yards on 13 carries.

As the game got out of hand, Princeville hit some running plays up the middle and used cutbacks and misdirection to get big holes.

United's lone score came in the fourth quarter on an 84-yard kickoff return by Chris Olson.

"Everybody blocked," Olson said. "I owe it to the guys who blocked for me. The touchdown was important to everybody."

After the game, Engebretson had a positive message for his team, which returned to the playoffs this year after missing out last year, "I hope you realize what you have (accomplished)," he told the team.

The Red Storm featured seven seniors, including tackle/linebacker Peter Elliott.

"The season was too short for me. But we brought the tradition back."

Coach Steve Cairns added, "I love our seniors. It's a tough loss."

Engebretson also made sure to recognize the seniors who led the team back to the playoffs. "It was a difficult game to lose, but it was more difficult to lose the seven seniors. They got us back were we belong. They'll be remembered forever - they're special kids."