BUFFALO — By no means are the players on Maple Valley/Enderlin "small".
But when they stood face to face with Park River/Forville-Lankin running back Chad Jelinek Saturday in Buffalo during the first round of the Division A playoffs, it sure seemed like it at times.
Jelinek, a senior, is listed at 192 pounds, but also stands at 6-foot-3-inches tall.
It was size he used to his team's advantage Saturday as he played the role of a power back, pushing the ball up the field in a 24-20 upset of the No. 1 seeded Falcons.
""Their plan was to run the ball and they did that," MVE coach Brett Kapaun said. "That Jelinek is tough."
His running was simple, but effective, as Jelinek took only a few yards at a time, instead opting for more carries in distances that accumulated first downs, rather than busting out big plays.
In his 31 carries, he only had four runs longer than 10 yards, topping out at 16. His teammate Cole Rehovsky, broke out with two 30-yard runs in the first half, one of which came on the final play of the half. Otherwise, the Aggies seemed to just nickel and dime their way across the field, eating clock as they went.
The Aggies received the opening kick and then punted after a three-and-out.
Maple Valley then had two long runs to start their opening drive, but fumbled the ball on a second-and-two.
The Aggies picked it up near mid-field, then spent a few minutes driving into Falcon territory before Rehovsky finished it with a 12-yard touchdown run to the right side to make it 6-0 on a failed conversion with 3:29 left.
When MVE got the ball back, they had an immediate advantage after a horse-collar tackle started their drive at the 50-yard line. Quarterback Jordan Haseleu took charge, getting a few runs and a 9-yard pass to Austin Dixson to get it in the red zone. Haseleu then got a touchdown, turning a fourth-and-one situation into a 17-yard run. A kick by Rodrigo Polmon gave the Falcons a 7-6 lead with 11:50 left in the half.
The Aggies took the lead right back, quickly getting the ball across the field and finishing with a three-yard run by Rehovsky to go up 12-7 with 8:30 left.
Park River went 0-4 in point-after conversions.
The Falcons then spent the next seven and a half minutes moving the ball and scoring on a one-yard run by Haseleu to make it 13-12 following a blocked kick.
When Maple Valley got the ball back to start the second half, Haseleu threw an interception, which set up the Aggies for another touchdown drive, finished again by Rehovsky, to go up 18-13.
Haseleu then had a touchdown pass to make it 20-18 midway through the fourth, which was followed by a five-minute drive that gave Rehovsky his fourth touchdown and a 24-20 lead to the Aggies with only 2:19 left.
On the Falcons' final drive, Haseleu started by avoiding a blitz and getting a 10-yard run to his own 31-yard line. He then connected with a seven-yard pass at the Falcon 30, calling a timeout with 1:30 left.
It was followed by heavy pressure. He was sacked for an eight-yard loss. On second-and-18, he hit Thomas Lindgren with a screen for nine yards, followed by a screen to Daniel Lindgren for another two. On fourth-and-seven with less than a minute left, he threw an incomplete pass deep down the field. Though the receiver appeared he might have been hit on the play, there was no pass interference call and the Aggies got the ball back with 28 seconds left.
Haseleu credited Park River's running game with their success.
"They had two good backs and a good line," he said. "We couldn't gang-tackle as much as we would have liked to but that's the way it goes."
Haseleu, one of the few seniors on the team, finished the game with a team-high 132 rushing yards and also had 71 passing yards on 11-18 completions.
"He's just a good athlete and he's made plays for us all year long," Kapaun said.
Thomas Lindgren finished with 82 rushing yards and Daniel Lindgren was Haseleu's main target, catching seven passes for 50 yards.
Jelinek led Park River with 146 yards rushing and Rehovsky had 93. The Aggies completed the two pass plays they ran, which totaled for 31 yards passing for Abraham Hankey.
It's the second straight year the Falcons have lost in the playoffs. Last season, the Falcons were eliminated in the state semifinal.
The team lost numerous key seniors from a year ago and were ranked fifth in their region entering the year. The Falcons defied those odds, instead picking up their first regional title as a co-op.
It was that success, Haseleu, a senior, said made the season great, even if it is ending prematurely.
"I think a lot of people weren't expecting us to be up this high or compete this well, but every day we worked hard as a team," he said. "Coaches told us from day one, 'you can do this — be region champs, go far into the playoffs.'"