NEW ULM - Now it's for real.
Sectional high school football playoffs begin Tuesday afternoon and night for all three New Ulm football teams, with a loss now meaning the end of their season.
After sectional seedings were made Thursday, both Minnesota Valley Lutheran and New Ulm Cathedral will enjoy Section 2A first round home games at Johnson Field, while New Ulm High School will be on the road.
Minnesota Valley Lutheran, seeded fourth in Section 2A, will open the day at 4 p.m. hosting fifth-seeded Cedar Mountain/Comfrey. That night at 7:30 p.m., the third-seeded Greyhounds will entertain the sixth-seeded Sleepy Eye Indians.
Meanwhile in Section 2AAAA, the fifth-seeded New Ulm Eagles will head to Dassel to play the fourth-seeded Lancers of Dassel-Cokato in a 7:30 p.m. match-up.
Win or go home - it is as simple as that.
Cedar Mountain/Comfrey (3-5) at Minnesota Valley Lutheran (3-5), 4 p.m. Tuesday at Johnson Field
Minnesota Valley Lutheran earned a home playoff game when it blanked United South Central 20-0 on Wednesday.
"It was a nice to come back and beat them after week one," said Buboltz about his team, which lost 12-7 to the Rebels in the first week of the football season. "That first week left a bad taste in our mouth. We really wanted to come back and show that we were better than that."
What Buboltz is referring to was that the loss should have been a win for his team. MVL had two touchdowns called back because of penalties, turning a potential win into a loss.
The Chargers rebounded from their opening loss and have been playing some of their best football of the season lately.
"The (20-0) win was one of our better games, and I was especially proud of both our offensive and defensive lines," Buboltz said. "Those guys got the job done, and when that happens it tends to change things completely for us."
The shutout of USC also has some historical significance to it as it was MVL's final game in the Gopher Valley Conference after 11 years. Next season, the Chargers will pay in the Southern Minnesota Conference.
"It was nice to leave with a win," Buboltz said. "We had a lot of fun and success there. We want to thank the Gopher Valley for everything that they did for us."
Now the focus of the Chargers falls on Cedar Mountain, a team that they will regularly face in their new conference.
"They look a lot like us," Buboltz said. "You are gong to see two very comparable teams. They have a balanced offense."
MVL may be the sleeper in the post-season if you go off of recent history.
Last year in the playoffs, the Chargers defeated Sleepy Eye 20-16 before pushing heavily favored New Ulm Cathedral to the limit before falling 28-21 in a classic football game.
Buboltz said that his team has "been waiting for the playoffs all year. The regular season was fun, but they have been waiting for this and I hope that we can put it all together. Our defense is playing very well. We want to get that kind of effort in the playoffs."
Sleepy Eye (1-7) at New Ulm Cathedral (5-3), 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Johnson Field
When the Greyhounds and the Indians met Sept. 22 in a Southern Minnesota Conference clash in Sleepy Eye, the Greyhounds came away with a 39-12 win.
Cathedral coach Denny Lux knows that in the playoffs though, anything can happen.
"In the playoffs, things change," he said. "The perspective of the game and how teams approach games is different. We know that Sleepy Eye Public is a much better team with Brandon Polesky returning at quarterback. Looking at film, they have changed a few things offensively. They are trying to confuse defenses a little bit more. Even though it is a little bit longer week (between games) there is a lot of work that we need to get done in a short time."
In their 49-26 loss to Blooming Prairie on Wednesday to close out the regular season, the Greyhounds were plagued by allowing the Blossoms a short field on many of their possessions.
"They had 386 yards of offense and we had 330 yards of offense, the game really came down to field position," Lux said. "That happens partly because of a little bit loss of focus. We had a couple of penalties at the wrong time. Those are things that we have to clean up. We cannot give our opponents a short field to work with."
When the year started, the Greyhounds had a young team with not a lot of experience returning. Is Lux surprised by the five wins that his team has thus far?
"We are not surprised," Lux said. "When we were out at the South Dakota State football camp we saw that these sophomores could compete. The seniors had packed on some muscle - we also had decent speed coming in... The thing that we are pleased about is the team unity when you have a team that is spread out between three classes as we do on the varsity."
Cathedral's offensive line had to be rebuild as no starters returned from last year.
"I am very proud of the team that we have become," Lux said. "We put emphasis on our guards, and our guards in our offense are as athletic as our fullbacks and halfbacks. We really try and find those kind of players that like to run and get out in the spaces and have contact. They make the offense go for us."
Despite a tradition of playoff success, the Greyhounds know that they will have to beat some very talented teams to progress deep into the playoffs this year.
"People that are watching us know that we are a team that can make some noise in the playoffs," Lux said. "The section playoffs will be good this year because you have a very good Sleepy Eye St. Mary's team, a good Springfield team that is always there at the top and now with MVL moving into the section. And Sleepy Eye Public has just been waiting to get their quarterback back and do the things that they worked on over the summer."
New Ulm High School (1-7) at Dassel-Cokato (2-6), 7 p.m. Tuesday at Dassel
New Ulm High School football coach Tony Ortmann feels that the playoff seedings worked out for his team this season.
"It worked out in our favor with the QRF ratings," he said. "Fortunately we did not get one of the top three teams in the section with Hutchinson, Marshall or Glencoe-Silver Lake. I think that we got the best seed possible (fifth). We would have wanted to be playing at home this week. But going against Dassel is a good opportunity for us."
Dassel is a team that likes to run the ball and the Lancers' top runner is Aaron Haatja, who has rushed for 579 yards and nine touchdowns. Haatja transferred back to D-C after a year in Warroad. Reid Nelson has also carried the ball for 416 yards and five touchdowns.
"They have some good running backs," Ortmann said. "They are a ground-and-pound team. They were in the game with Glencoe-Silver Lake (losing 18-12), so they are a good team. They play some good competition in the Wright County, so it will be a challenge for us."
In order to come out strong against such a run-heavy offense, the Eagles will need to make significant strides in an area that has been a recent weakness for them - tackling.
"We need to come out and tackle - get that mentality of tackling," Ortmann said. "We have been rotating players on both the offensive and defensive lines to keep players fresh. We got a lot of players going both ways, so we are trying to rotate people in and out."
Ortmann hopes to have his lineup at full strength come Tuesday after seeing multiple players receive injuries in the team's regular season-ending loss to Fairmont.
"We had some key injuries in the game against Fairmont," Ortmann said. "Blake Neumann got a concussion and Blake Piotter and Jackson Yackley also were hurt. We will not know about their status until Monday."