TROJAN FOOTBALL: Trojans winless no moreWINDOM — Sparked by a quick interception return for a touchdown by Zach Kempema and two tackles in the end zone for safeties on consecutive possessions to open the first quarter Friday night, the Worthington Trojans put on a clinic defensively from start to finish and claimed a big 35-0 victory over the Windom Eagles in a Southwest Conference high school football game at Island Park.
By: Lucas Knutson, Worthington Daily Globe
WINDOM — Sparked by a quick interception return for a touchdown by Zach Kempema and two tackles in the end zone for safeties on consecutive possessions to open the first quarter Friday night, the Worthington Trojans put on a clinic defensively from start to finish and claimed a big 35-0 victory over the Windom Eagles in a Southwest Conference high school football game at Island Park.
Both teams came into the contest winless, and it was Worthington who dominated the line of scrimmage, took control of the action out of the gate and maintained command throughout all 48 minutes — the final 12 of which were played under the “running time” rules in the fourth quarter due to the huge margin.
Worthington is now 1-3 overall and 1-2 in the conference after holding Windom (0-4, 0-2) to just 12 total yards of net offense. The Trojans’ defense accounted for the game’s first three scores in impressive fashion and allowed the Eagles to cross midfield only once all night long.
“The way we started the game defensively, that was a great feeling for our entire team,” summed up Worthington head coach Brad Grimmius. “We came out with a lot of intensity and made some big plays to set the tone, scoring 11 early points and jumping on top right away. We continued to get the job done defensively throughout the game and earned a well-deserved win.”
Morgan Traylor, Trevor Wietzema and Will Dudley were among the many Trojans who were constantly in Windom’s offensive backfield disrupting things, not allowing the Eagles — who finished with a net of negative 39 yards rushing — to get anything going on the ground.
A.J. Hayenga led Worthington’s 208-yard offensive output with 98 yards rushing and two touchdowns on just four carries. Marcus Potter (50 yards, touchdown) and Jessie Guerra (20 yards) both ran the ball eight times, as the Trojans gained 182 yards rushing on 35 total attempts.
Blake Schroeder, in his first start at quarterback, was 4-of-8 for 26 yards in the passing game for Worthington, completing two aerials to Will Mulder for seven yards and one apiece to Potter (seven yards) and Aaron Pavelko (12 yards).
Mulder was a perfect 4-for-4 on extra-point kicks and also booted a 22-yard field goal as time expired in the second quarter — sending Worthington into the halftime break with a 28-0 bulge. Mulder was also effective in handling the kick-off and punting duties for the Trojans, helping set up the three initial scores with solid field position.
“We played well on special teams and had field position in our favor, especially early on,” Grimmius said. “Will has a very good leg and can kick the ball extremely well, as we have a lot of confidence in his abilities.”
Kempema’s “pick six” fires up Trojans
Windom started the game with the ball at its own 24-yard line, and on the third play of the series (third-and-eight), Kempema intercepted a pass and returned the pick 26 yards for a touchdown.
Mulder split the uprights on the PAT attempt, lifting the Trojans to a 7-0 lead with 10:38 showing on the first-quarter clock.
Worthington then swarmed Windom on the ensuing kick, as the Eagles began their second drive at their own six-yard line — and went backwards on the next two plays.
The Trojans’ Carson Hagen recorded a quarterback sack for a loss of five yards before Dudley broke through the line and tackled the ball carrier in the end zone for a safety and a 9-0 Worthington lead at the 9:39 mark.
Unable to pick up a first down on their first offensive series, the Trojans punted and once again pinned the Eagles deep at the five-yard line. Traylor and Dudley stuffed a Windom run for a loss of four yards and then Traylor sacked the quarterback in the end zone for another safety — increasing Worthington’s lead to 11-0 with 6:33 remaining.
“Again, that was a terrific way to start the game,” Grimmius said. “Our defensive line did an outstanding job of applying pressure and was able to create some excitement.”
A 30-yard return by Guerra on the following free kick set the Trojans up at the Eagles’ 24-yard line, and Worthington went to the airwaves to seemingly score for the fourth time in the opening six minutes.
However, a 24-yard touchdown pass from Schroeder to Mulder was called back due to a holding penalty, and the Trojans had to punt a bit later.
An 11-yard loss on a sack by Wietzema was a Trojans’ highlight on the next Eagles’ drive, as Windom could not move the ball and trailed 11-0 after the first quarter.
Worthington gets offense going
The Trojans were better able to pick up first downs and sustain drives in the second quarter, and they put together a five-play, 53-yard scoring drive to widen the gap three minutes in.
A 15-yard penalty on the Eagles, tacked on to a 13-yard burst by Guerra, and three two-yard gains preceded a 19-yard touchdown dash from Hayenga through an opening up the middle. Mulder’s booming extra point pushed Worthington’s lead to 18-0 with 9:15 to go.
Wietzema collected another sack on the first play of Windom’s next drive, forcing — and recovering — a fumble at the 10-yard line. But Worthington couldn’t cash in on that opportunity, as a 22-yard field goal by Mulder was wide to the left.
Windom crossed midfield for the only time on the ensuing possession when Michael Rivera (2-for-11, 51 yards passing) hooked up with Collin Lovell for a 24-yard completion. The Eagles, though, soon had to punt after stalling at the Trojans’ 29 and moving backwards.
Worthington handed the ball off to Hayenga on the first play of its follow-up series and the result was an electrifying 78-yard touchdown scamper.
Hayenga appeared to be stopped for a short gain, but he somehow emerged from a pack of defenders and scooted down the left sideline before crossing back across the middle of the field for a long score to make it 25-0 (Mulder PAT good) with 3:12 remaining.
“There was a big hole at the line of scrimmage on that play, but I did almost get tackled after about five yards or so,” Hayenga said. “I was able to get through the defense and received a little boost from a block by Morgan Traylor down the sideline, and then it was just off to the races. That was a lot of fun and this was a great win for us tonight.”
Worthington drove for one more scoring chance in the final two minutes of the half, getting in position for Mulder to attempt another 22-yard field goal with three seconds left.
This time, Mulder’s kick was accurate and pushed the Trojans’ cushion to 28-0.
Trojans stay in control, Potter scores TD
Worthington started the third quarter with the ball and had a nice drive going, as Potter (five-yard run), Pavelko (12-yard reception), Guerra (four-yard run) and Schroeder (11-yard run) each turned in positive plays.
But penalties derailed the drive at Windom’s 19 and sent the Trojans back to the 28, where Mulder lined up to attempt a 45-yard field goal — which fell well short.
Worthington’s next drive consisted of a seven-yard screen pass from Schroeder to Mulder and an 18-yard burst by Potter, but the Trojans again came up short after committing a few more penalties.
Worthington, though, did find the end zone one last time, turning a fumble recovery into a 17-yard touchdown run by Potter on a sweep to the right.
Mulder completed the game’s scoring with his fourth PAT, as the Trojans were up 35-0 with 1:08 left in the third quarter.
“We were moving the ball well for most of the third quarter, but we shot ourselves in the foot a few too many times and left a lot of points on the field,” Grimmius said. “We still have a lot of work to do in order to become a more efficient and consistent team, although we certainly do feel a lot better about the way we played now than we did in the first three weeks.
“We had a great week of preparation, as the kids worked their tails off,” Grimmius continued. “Our mental state was the best that it has been all year, and we will look to carry that into next week against Canby.”
The Trojans travel to play the Canby Lancers in a non-conference game next Friday, while Windom is at Luverne.
WHS 11 17 7 0 — 35
Windom 0 0 0 0 — 0