Who would come up with the big play?
That was the question the Providence Academy coaching staff laid before their players in advance of Friday night’s big showdown with St. Agnes.
The answer, it turns out, was senior linebacker Logan Ahlers.
It was Ahlers whose interception with just over five-and-a-half minutes to play snuffed out an Aggies comeback bid and set up the game-sealing touchdown as the Lions held on to win 17-8 in a battle of unbeatens on homecoming night at Providence Academy’s Mithun Field.
“That was definitely pushed in the locker room and all week in practice,” said Ahlers, whose team improved to 4-0 this season. “We knew somebody had to come up with that big play.”
Ahlers made that happen after St. Agnes scored on a 15-yard touchdown run by senior quarterback Isaac Schmidt with 8:06 remaining. The ensuing two-point conversion cut the Lions’ lead to just 10-8.
Then, after Providence Academy went three-and-out on its next possession, the Aggies got the ball back at their own 25 with momentum on their side. But Ahlers’ pick put the ball back in the hands of the
Lions’ offense, and running back Jacob Meissner made the most of the opportunity – scoring on a 9-yard
touchdown run with 3:20 to go that put the game out of reach.
“That was awesome,” said Meissner, a senior at Maranatha Christian Academy, who won the Class 3A state wrestling title at 220 pounds for Osseo as a junior (Maranatha co-ops with Providence Academy and three other schools in football and with Osseo in wrestling).
“They were coming down the field, and it was a close game. They had enough time to score, but Logan made the interception, and that really set us off.”
It was just one of several big plays the Lions’ defense came up with Friday. Twice in the first half, they stopped St. Agnes on downs in Providence Academy territory – first on fourth-and-2 at the 25 in the first quarter, then on fourth-and-6 at the 33 in the second.
Meanwhile, Ahlers hit a 35-yard field goal and Meissner scored on a 3-yard run to give the Lions a 10-0 lead at halftime.
“We knew it was really important to get off to a good start,” said Providence Academy coach Colin Rooney, whose team had trailed at some point in the first half in all three of its previous games, and at halftime in two of them.
“The past few weeks, we’ve dug ourselves a little bit of a hole early. But we knew we couldn’t do that against a good team like this.”
And St. Agnes did not quit, battling back to cut the gap to two on Schmidt’s touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
“That’s what we live for,” said Schmidt, whose team fell to 3-1. “That’s what the coaches preach. You play every down and you fight like a dog. We never give up.”
But Ahler’s interception and Meissner’s touchdown run created a gap too wide to overcome.
“He’s a beast,” St. Agnes coach Tom Flood said of Meissner, who is leaning toward attending the Naval Academy but has not yet decided for sure on his college choice. “He’s a heckuva great football player. We have so much respect for him.”
Flood’s team has a matchup at Minneapolis South next week, while Providence Academy looks to remain undefeated when it plays at Breck.
“This gives us so much momentum,” Meissner said. “Being able to come up with a win against an undefeated team like (St. Agnes) will build up a lot of confidence.”