Football: Mayo passes first test, takes down Austin
Spartans’ new starters shine in varsity debuts
Calvin Dixon and Cade Sheehan had never played football together at any level prior to this season.
They looked like a pair produced in pigskin heaven on Friday night.
“It feels like we’ve played together for a long time,” Dixon said. “If he’s stuck he just throws it and I’m going to get it for him.”
Sheehan commanded the Rochester Mayo offense with poise and confidence, and Dixon made a pair of highlight-reel touchdown catches that stood out among many big plays made by the Spartans in a 52-28 Big Southeast District victory against Austin at Mayo Stadium.
Sheehan — listed at 5-feet-9, 150 pounds — showed no sign of nerves in his varsity debut. He passed for 176 yards in the first half and finished the game having completed 12 of 22 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns.
“He’s a competitor,” Mayo coach Donny Holcomb said. “I don’t think we’ve had a quarterback who’s that competitive in a long time. I love it because, no one would give him a chance because he’s so small. But his heart is huge.”
Sheehan also ran for two TDs, broke up two passes on defense and recovered an Austin fumble.
“It’s definitely nice to have someone like Calvin who can go up and make a play for you,” Sheehan said. “He’s an athlete and he brings everything he’s got to every play.”
While Sheehan showed the decision-making ability of a veteran, Dixon showed a play-making ability that will open eyes around southeastern Minnesota. He laid out for a 34-yard reception on Mayo’s second scoring drive in the first quarter, then outjumped a Packers defensive back for a 27-yard score in the second quarter. His second TD came when he outran a defender to the far front corner of the end zone and caught a perfectly placed ball from Sheehan for a 29-yard score and a 24-7 lead with 3:23 left in the first half.
“We did a lot of routes together in the summer and ... sometimes we just give each other that look and no what we’re going to do,” Dixon said of his connection with Sheehan.
Mayo seized control of the game for good in the final 1 minute, 47 seconds of the third quarter. Austin had cut the Spartans lead to just three points, 31-28, with 1:58 to go in the quarter.
“We just had to stay positive, keep our mindset that one play can change everything, and that’s pretty much what happened,” Sheehan said. “I felt good. I trust our linemen, we have a good bond, they played really well. I just know I have to do my job and they’ll do theirs.”
On the first play of the ensuing drive, senior running back Speedy Lozoya — who finished with 156 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries — broke up the middle for a 56-yard score. Mayo safety Jack Murphy intercepted Austin QB Nate Murphy three plays later and returned it to the Packers’ 8. Sheehan then scored on a 1-yard keeper with 6.9 seconds to go in the third.
On the final play of the quarter, Austin’s Murphy was hit as he attempted to throw and DeMonte Simmons picked the ball out of mid-air then returned it 45 yards for another score.
In just 1:47, Mayo turned a three-point lead into a 24-point lead and sealed a victory in its opener, the same game it lost at Austin last year, 40-21.
“This feels great because they pounded us last year,” Dixon said. “We just want to be humble and work hard. We were ready to play, just excited and we had to keep our minds focused. The little things really counted.”
Holcomb was pleased with Friday’s result, and pleased with the play of more than a dozen new starters, including the team’s offensive linemen and many of the front seven on defense. Austin finished with 373 total yards (308 rushing), but Mayo forced five turnovers and held Packers’ QB Nate Murphy to 3-of-17 passing, with three interceptions.
“I’m proud of the way the kids responded and the resiliency they showed,” Holcomb said. “Our line toughed it out. Our skill guys made some plays. Calvin has really stepped it up this fall.
“(Dixon and Sheehan) play off of each other. They’re both unselfish and they really trust each other. Cade knows he can throw it up there and Calvin will fight for the ball.”
The Spartans (1-0) will face another strong test next Friday, when they host defending Class AAAAA state champion Owatonna at 7 p.m.
“I think it’s great to see them right away,” Holcomb said. “Why wouldn’t we want to go against the best and see where we’re at?”
MAYO 52, AUSTIN 28
Austin 0 14 14 0 — 28
Mayo 14 17 21 0 — 52
MAYO — Cade Sheehan 7 run (kick failed). 6:59
MAYO — Speedy Lozoya 33 run (Cayden Holcomb pass from Sheehan). 3:00
MAYO — Jake McCabe 25 FG. 11:51
AUST — Connor Byram 15 pass from Nate Murphy (Andrew Schumacher kick). 7:33
MAYO — Calvin Dixon 29 pass from Sheehan (McCabe kick). 3:23
AUST — Murphy 18 run (Schumacher kick). 1:23
MAYO — Dixon 27 pass from Sheehan (McCabe kick). :05.7
AUST — Sam Hagan 7 run (Schumacher kick). 5:14
AUST — Byram 25 pass from Murphy (Schumacher kick). 1:58
MAYO — Lozoya 56 run (McCabe kick). 1:47
MAYO — Sheehan 1 run (McCabe kick). 0:06.9
MAYO — DeMonte Simmons 45 interception return (McCabe kick). 0:00
First downs 19 16
Total net yards 373 402
Rushes-yards 49-308 37-175
Passing yards 65 227
Comp.-att.int. 3-17-3 12-22-1
Penalties-yards 8-70 9-55
Fumbles-lost 3-2 2-1
Punts-avg. 2-32.5 2-33.5
Time of possession 21:07 26:53
Austin — Nate Murphy 19-129, 1 TD; Joe Seeman 9-75; Sam Hagan 17-101, 1 TD; Logan O’Rourke 4-3. Mayo — Speedy Lozoya 17-156, 2 TDs; Cade Sheehan 12-35, 2 TDs; Jack Murphy 2-7; Asa Cummings 2-(minus-1); Marshall Peters 1-(minus-1).
Austin — Nate Murphy 3-16-3, 65 yards, 2 TDs; Logan O’Rourke 0-1-0, 0 yards. Mayo — Cade Sheehan 12-22-1, 227 yards, 2 TDs.
Austin — Connor Byram 3-65, 2 TDs.
Mayo — Calvin Dixon 3-100, 2 TDs; Ethan Loehrer 3-61; Speedy Lozoya 2-24; Jack Murphy 1-15; Alex Lopez 3-37.