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Prep football: Trojans rout Windom Area, 42-14

Brian Korthals/Daily Globe Worthington’s Jessie Guerra (6) returns an interception for a touchdown early in the first quarter during Friday night’s Southwest Conference game against Windom Area at Trojan Field.

Les Knutson

Daily Globe

WORTHINGTON —During Thursday’s final practice prior to the Trojans’ Friday evening home opener against Southwest Conference and Highway 60 rival Windom, Worthington head coach Brad Grimmius emphasized four ways to take advantage of opportunities.

Two of the points stressed inspiring others through actions and sharing positive contagious energy.

The fourth point —encourage your teammates with purpose, passion and enthusiasm —was exhibited frequently by the black-clad Trojans throughout their 42-14 victory Friday night at Trojan Field.

“We stressed being positive and enthusiastic and the kids really were,” exclaimed Grimmius after his team’s second win a row. “We need to stick together and take advantage of the opportunities that come up in a football game and we sure did that tonight.”

The Trojans crossed the goal line six times, scoring in every quarter and stretching a 14-7 lead into a 35-7 advantage with a trio of unanswered touchdowns.

Windom, which pieced together a pair of solid scoring drives, scored touchdowns in both the middle of the second and fourth quarters.

With the win, the Trojans improve to 2-2 overall and are 2-1 in the Southwest Conference, trailing Jackson County Central (4-1, 3-0) and Marshall (2-2, 2-0).

JCC defeated Luverne (2-2, 1-2) in convincing fashion at Jackson Friday, 39-13, and Marshall routed Pipestone Area (2-2, 1-2), 47-22, at Paulsen Field in Pipestone.

The Huskies and Tigers meet at Marshall Friday in a clash between the early-season undefeated league leaders.

Guerra picks pass, scores

game’s first touchdown

Things didn’t start out the best for the Trojans as the Eagles’ defense stymied Worthington’s opening series to zero net yards on three plays.

But on Windom’s first play from scrimmage, Worthington outside linebacker Brandon Gray applied pressure on Eagles’ quarterback Zach Bartosh, causing an off-balance hurried throw —which was intercepted by Trojan free safety Jesse Guerra near midfield.

Guerra, a 5-8, 150-pound senior who is a top-notch track sprinter, raced 53 yards with the pick and Worthington was on the scoreboard with just two minutes and three seconds of the game played.

Junior Will Mulder was perfect on the first of his six extra-point kicks and before all the fans had settled in, the Trojans were up 7-0.

“We didn’t start the way we wanted to on our first offensive possession,” noted Grimmius. “But, our defense —which has been playing well —came up with a big early play, creating some excitement.”

Windom, led by strong running from sophomore tailback Ryley Espensen, picked up a couple of first downs and the Trojans countered with gains up the middle by junior Troy Ektntiphong, along with a key first-down pass completion from Will Dudley to Blake Schroeder.

But neither team sustained a drive until Ektnitphong —who finished the game with 238 yards rushing on 18 carries —burst through an opening for a 74-yard touchdown run at the 9:32 mark of the second quarter.

“We executed our trap play —which is a hard play for high schools kids to block correctly —very well tonight,” praised Grimmius. “Our offense line (Carson Hagen, Cody Ober, Zach Kempema, King Blanchette and Joe Pavelko) did a great job and when Troy gets a crease, he can make a cut and break loose.”

“That kid is fast,” exclaimed Windom rookie head coach Bobby Elwell about Ektnitphong. “Worthington uses him well behind their blocking scheme and he’s hard to catch once he springs free.”

Bartosh and Gotto connect for Eagles TD

Elwell displayed his confidence in Bartosh (12-of-27 passing for 144 yards) as his senior quarterback —aided by a pass interference penalty on the Trojans —effectively engineered an Eagle scoring drive midway through the second quarter, completing three passes to senior wide receiver Jacob Gotto.

Bartosh mixed up things well, going left on the pass interference play, hitting Gotto for a 28-yard gain to the right and finding Gotto for an eight-yard completion to the left.

Bartosh and Gotto (six catches, 80 yards) capped the drive with a 30-yard TD completion to the right corner of the end zone with 5:54 to play in the first half.

Luis Ramirez booted the PAT, slicing Worthington’s lead to 14-7.

The Trojans, countered with a strong drive of their own —pounding the ball on the ground —capped by Ektnitphong’s nine-yard TD burst up the middle with 1:12 left in the second quarter.

The drive started with a pass interception by Schroeder, who picked off another one —following a lost Trojan fumble near the end of the first half —in the end zone to keep the Eagles from scoring.

Dudley scores two third-quarer touchdowns

Holding a 21-7 advantage at intermission, the Trojans came up with continued positive energy in the third quarter.

A 22-yard punt return by Guerra gave Worthington great field position at the Eagles’ 32.

A 26-yard pass completion from Dudley to Robert Lovan moved the ball to the six-yard line. Two plays later, Dudley scored from four yards out on a strong sweep to the right with 9:15 on the third-quarter clock.

Leading 28-7, the Trojans’ defense forced Windom into a precarious third-and-39 situation from its own one-yard line —following a bad snap and a tackle for a loss by Guerra near the goal line.

Bryce Bever got the punt away, but Guerra’s 25-yard return put the Trojans at the Eagles’ 10.

Two plays later, Dudley scrambled and scampered 14 yards for his second TD of the third quarter and with 5:40 remaining the period, Worthington had a 35-7 lead.

Eagles drive again in fourth, Ektnitphong scores his third TD

Midway through the fourth quarter, Espensen rambled 21 yards on a sweep to the left,

Bartosh connected with sophomore Jeff Pfeffer for a 19-yard gain and Bartosh found Bever for 12 yards on a slant over the middle.

With a first-and-goal at the 10, Espensen slipped a pair of tackles for a six-yard gain and then August Nielsen burst four yards for Windom’s second touchdown. Ramirez’s kick made the score 35-14 with 6:07 left in the game.

One minute later, Ektnitphong completed the game’s scoring, breaking free for an 80-yard touchdown dash down the left sideline.

A great defensive play by Worthington sophomore Ty Veen —ripping the ball away from an Eagle ball carrier—put an end to Windom’s final drive in the closing seconds.

Worthington hosts Annandale for its homecoming game Friday night.

Windom 0 7 0 7 — 14

Trojans 7 14 14 7 — 42