TROJAN FOOTBALL: Trojans win big over CardinalsWORTHINGTON – Following an opening half that saw the host Trojans take a 14-6 lead over the Redwood Valley Cardinals into the break, no one in attendance at Trojan Field expected Wednesday’s final regular season contest to finish in a shootout.
By: Lance Knutson, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON – Following an opening half that saw the host Trojans take a 14-6 lead over the Redwood Valley Cardinals into the break, no one in attendance at Trojan Field expected Wednesday’s final regular season contest to finish in a shootout.
But that’s exactly what happened as the two Southwest Conference rivals combined to put up 52 second-half points with Worthington securing a 44-28 victory to head into the playoffs with some momentum.
On a blustery mid-October evening, the wind played a big factor from the start of the contest and WHS used that to its advantage almost immediately.
“The weather played a big factor in the game,” Trojan head coach Brad Grimmius said following the win. “We won the coin flip and took the wind right away. Well, they deferred and it was our choice so we got the ball and the wind to start the game and the wind to start the third. That played huge. We felt for the mental state of our players was that we needed to get on top first and we were able to do that.”
While the WHS opening drive went three-and-out, a nice punt for a touchback by Will Mulder gave the Cardinals the ball going into the wind and Trojans forced the visitors into a three-and-out of their own.
Will Dudley broke through the line on the RV punt attempt and blocked the punt, which was recovered by the Trojans on the Cardinal three-yard line.
Two plays later, Troy Eknitphong received an inside hand and broke into the end zone to give the Trojans a 7-0 lead (Mulder kick) with 7:55 remaining in the first quarter.
Neither side managed to do much offensively over the balance of the opening frame. It wasn’t until Dudley made another big play with an interception early in the second quarter to help the Trojans get good field position.
With RV driving with several nice completions from Alex Koster to RJ Juell in the opening minutes of the second quarter, Morgan Traylor (five tackles for a loss, one sack) pushed the Cardinals back with a big tackle for a loss and Dudley followed that play up with an interception off of a tipped ball by Trevor Wietzema.
“I knew it was the last time that I would get a chance to play on Trojan Field,” Traylor said. “So I went just all out, all night.”
That pick by Dudley was his first of two in the game and two plays later, WHS extended the lead to 14-0 as Marcus Potter snapped off a 28-yard run on a stretch play to the right with 7:33 left in the first half (Mulder kick).
“The coaches did a really good job preparing us,” Dudley said. “The schemes were good all night and we just went out and executed. Everybody played well and we got the job done.”
However, it was the Cardinals that used a big special team’s play to keep within striking distance as Austin Kretsch blocked a Mulder punt to give the visitors the ball deep in Trojan territory late in the first half.
RV quarterback Alec Koster punched in a five-yard keeper run with 4:06 remaining in the first half to keep the Cardinals within one possession of the Trojans at 14-6 following a failed PAT kick.
The Trojans, who rushed for 73 yards in the first half, stopped the Cardinals on their opening drive of the second half and the Trojan offense went to work with a short field following a short punt into the wind by RV.
Facing a third-and-four from the RV 38-yard line, Potter bounced an inside run to the left side of the field and scampered in with his second of three TDs with 8:34 left in the third quarter (Mulder kick) for a 21-6 lead.
Potter, who finished with 199 yards on 16 carries and three TDs, was quick to credit his offensive line.
“The line was blocking great,” the junior tailback said. “I saw the holes and busted through them and good things happened. We carried out our fakes well and drew the defense to them. That allowed me to get the yards, so I give all the credit to my team.”
Josh Vander Veen immediately got the ball back for the Trojans with an interception on the first RV play of the next drive. However, the Trojans ended up turning the ball over on downs near midfield following the pick.
Dudley again came up big for the Trojans, however, as the junior linebacker intercepted Koster again to stop another RV drive.
“Will played great,” Potter said of Dudley’s effort. “He hustled all over the field on defense with two picks and two blocked punts. That helped spark our offense a lot.”
The Trojan offense struck quickly following Dudley’s second pick as Potter ran in from 75 yards out to extend WHS lead to 28-6 with 4:03 left in the third quarter (Mulder kick).
The Cardinals cut the Trojan lead to 28-12 with another TD run by Koster with 1:57 remaining in the third quarter, but the hosts used a 55-yard run by Eknitphong on their next possession to set up a 30-yard field goal by Mulder as time expired in the third quarter for a 31-12 lead with 12 minutes to play.
RV’s ensuing drive to start the fourth quarter was sustained for nine plays but ended with a turnover on downs. However, the Cardinals created a fumble on the next Trojan drive and capitalized on the miscue when a three-yard TD run by Jordan Mann and a 2-point conversion from Koster to Juell cut the Trojans lead to 31-20 with 9:53 remaining in the contest.
WHS countered five plays later, as Eknitphong (nine carries for 110 yards and two TDs) broke a run up the middle to the right sideline and received a nice block from Dudley near the end of the run for a 60-yard score with 6:44 left in the game. After another successful Mulder PAT, the Trojans were again ahead by three possessions at 38-20.
The Cardinals regained the ball following another Trojan turnover late in the fourth quarter and again capitalized when Koster ran in his third TD of the game with 2:06 remaining (Koster to Juell conversion) to make it 38-28 in favor of the hosts.
“We knew that Redwood could put up some points because they throw the ball all over the yard,” Grimmius said. “But credit to the kids for playing against some adversity with some turnovers and blocked punts. They put their nose to the grind stone and had a great outcome with the win.”
Following an unsuccessful onside kick attempt by the Cardinals, Alex Hayenga salted the game away for the Trojans with a 60-yard run to pay dirt with 1:38 remaining in the game to make it 44-28.
Hayenga’s run put him up to 100 yards on 13 carries, giving the Trojan offense three 100-yard rushers in the contest (Potter, Eknitphong and Hayenga). WHS finished with 405 total rushing yards in the game.
“When we can run the ball, we’ve got a good chance to win the game,” Dudley said. “Our offensive line played great and it was a good team win.”
The win improves the Trojans to 3-5 overall and to a fifth-place finish in the Southwest Conference with a 2-4 mark.
RV finishes 2-6 overall and 1-5 in the SWC. The Cardinals received 299 passing yards on a 24-for-47 effort from Koster (11 carries for 43 yards), while Juell caught 17 passes for 219 yards in the loss.
WHS awaits the final calculations of the Quality Results Formula (QRF) used by Minnesota-Scores.net to determine its opponent in the upcoming Section 3AAA playoffs, which begin Tuesday. The Trojans anticipate that they will receive the No. 6 seed with a game at probable third-seed Tri-City United
“It’s a big win for us and we have momentum on our side,” Potter said. “We’ll be ready for whoever we have to play in the playoffs.”
RV 0 6 6 16 – 28
WHS 7 7 17 13 – 44