TURTLE LAKE - Tayler Wallstrum's second-to-last carry on Saturday was just about identical to the 40 that preceded it.
Surrey quarterback Brendan Larson handed the ball off to his senior fullback, who followed the block set by 335-pound left guard Holden Hartley for two yards up the middle. The 4th-down run resulted in the first down that secured the Mustangs' 28-26 victory against Central McLean (7-3) and the first 9-man playoff win in school history.
The game was a tour de force for Wallstrum, forced to become the primary ball carrier after junior running back Bryan Dye was carried to the sideline with what appeared to be a severe injury to his left knee on the team's first possession. Dye sat on the bench without pads for the remainder of the game.
Surrey High School senior fullback Tayler Wallstrum (with ball) breaks through a group of Central McLean players during the Mustangs’ first round Class A playoff win on Saturday in Turtle Lake.
Wallstrum collected 193 yards on his 42 carries, scoring two touchdowns and a couple of two-point conversions along the way.
"(The game plan) changed," Wallstrum said, "but we practice it. We're ready. We've practiced situations where people get hurt in practice. We're ready for anyone to get hurt. You just gotta be ready for anything."
And Surrey (7-3), the No. 2 seed out of Region 3, looked prepared. Junior Wyatt Kidney entered the game for Dye and gained 31 yards on 11 carries. Larson and junior back Jordan Wenstad combined for nine carries to also take some of the load off Wallstrum.
The Mustangs ran 70 plays from scrimmage, double Central McLean's total. On 65 carries, Surrey gained 280 yards.
"It was a rough game," Hartley said. "We were smash mouth both ways. But that's our goal is to come out and just handle the ball, keep time of possession our way."
When Surrey didn't run, they caught the Cougars sleeping on Larson's passing abilities. The junior completed two of his five passes with both completions resulting in touchdowns.
In the first quarter, Larson faked a handoff to Wallstrum and found senior receiver Laramy Adams downfield for a 33-yard score that gave the Mustangs a 14-0 lead. In the third, Larson found Kidney on a screen that found paydirt from 19 yards out.
"They're not ready for it," Wallstrum said. "They're off-balance. They have to worry so much about that big line pushing them back, it opens things up outside."
Wallstrum's second touchdown put Surrey ahead 28-12 with 9:52 remaining, but Central McLean wasn't done fighting. Cougars quarterback Aaron Morman hooked up with tight end Jakob Kasprowicz on 4th-and-14 for a 19-yard score. The ensuing two-point conversion failed and Central McLean still trailed by two scores at 28-18.
After the Cougars forced a Mustangs punt, Mormon threw his fourth touchdown pass of the afternoon and second to tight end Nathan Rauhauser to creep within two.
"Defensively, we gotta get better," Surrey coach Lyall Krueger said. "We just let them get some pass plays that we gotta do a better job on."
Central McLean didn't try an onside kick and instead elected to try to make another stop. Cougars coach Kevin Dockter burned his three timeouts earlier in the half and was unable to stop the clock after Wallstrum converted.
"We were scrambling," Dockter said. "Of course you'd like to have saved them, but that's just the way it is."
The game was Central McLean's last as a 9-man team. They'll join Class A's Region 4 next season.
Surrey plays at TGU on Saturday in the quarterfinals.