Chargers strike down Flying Dutchmen

EDGERTON -- It's becoming a yearly event. For the fourth consecutive season, the Westbrook-Walnut Grove and Edgerton football teams have met in the Section 3A 9-man playoffs. The first three times, Edgerton came out victorious, sending the Charge...

Aaron Hagen/Daily Globe Westbrook-Walnut Grove quarterback Derek Eichner (7) waits for his blockers as Edgerton's Josh Steffl (99) tries to strip the ball late in Saturday's Section 3 9-man football game in Edgerton.

EDGERTON -- It's becoming a yearly event.

For the fourth consecutive season, the Westbrook-Walnut Grove and Edgerton football teams have met in the Section 3A 9-man playoffs.

The first three times, Edgerton came out victorious, sending the Chargers home early.

However, Saturday's game was different.

For the first time in four tries, W-WG was able to come out on top, winning 27-20, and advancing to the section finals.


"We never won in the playoffs against these guys," W-WG quarterback Derek Eichner said. "In the years past we've beat them in the regular season and then we lost in the playoffs, but this year we lost to them in the regular season and we beat them in the playoffs. We beat them when it counts."

While Eichner led the Chargers to victory, it was a first half that he would like to forget.

The Westbrook-Walnut Grove quarterback did not complete a pass as the Chargers found themselves down by six points.

However, Eichner threw three second-half touchdowns in the victory.

"I just adjusted to the wind," Eichner said. "The wind was a little factor in the first half, and in the second half I adjusted to it.

"We didn't have the blocking scheme down, and in the second half we corrected it. We passed a little more and got the job done."

Eichner was 5-for-20 passing for 103 yards. He also ran for 60 yards and had 15 tackles.

W-WG ran for 300 yards in the game, but none were as important, or as painful, as Josh Merrick's (130 yards) 12-yard run late in the game.


Facing a third-and-9, Merrick carried over the right side for a first down, but after the tackle, remained on the field, screaming in pain from cramps.

"It hurts," Merrick said. "That cramp up at the end hurt, but I knew that right there I had to fight through the pain and get that first down."

However, that wasn't the biggest run, according to Merrick.

"That was a big first down, and the one after by Mason Comnick was even bigger because it let us kneel," Merrick said.

Following a timeout, Comnick (10 rushes, 40 yards) ran for another 12-yard gain and Eichner kneeled to run out the clock in W-WG's victory.

"I thought we played very well," Edgerton head coach Andrew Fleischman said. "We ran against a very good Westbrook team. Coming into the year we knew they were going to be tough. We played very hard and made some big plays; they just made a couple more plays than we did and that proved to be the difference."

While W-WG made more plays in the end, it was Edgerton that came up with the first break.

The Chargers drove down inside the Edgerton red zone in their first possession, but couldn't come away with any points.


Pinned deep in their own territory on their second possession, Merrick lost the handle on the ball, and Edgerton's Jordan Gunnink was there to scoop up the loose ball and take it 14 yards for a touchdown.

"I held on to the ball wrong, and I fumbled it," Merrick said. "But I have a short memory, and I forgot about that and went for the next one."

Neither team was able to score in the half as the Flying Dutchmen had a 6-point lead at halftime.

"What a slugfest," W-WG co-head coach Leo Theisen said. "The first half was a battle and who would have figured that the score would end up 27-20 after it was 6-0. I think both teams were giving it their best shot."

While the first two quarters featured strong defensive play, the third quarter became an offensive shootout.

W-WG started opening up the offense, and behind the arm of Eichner, marched down the field on its first possession.

Eichner completed passes of 28 and 23 yards to Jace Jarmer (three receptions, 58 yards) as W-WG was on the move.

The combination worked for a 7-yard touchdown as the Chargers jumped out to a 7-6 lead.


It took four plays for Edgerton to answer, as Alex Heard (14-for-29 passing, 200 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions) found Gunnink for a 58-yard strike as the Flying Dutchmen regained the lead, 12-7.

"Both teams had spread it out a little bit and had a lot of success spreading it out," Fleischman said. "For the most part, we did a good job against the run and we had a lot of trouble running against them."

The teams traded punts before the Chargers got on the board again.

Merrick had a 39-yard gain on the first play of the drive, and Eichner capped the drive with an 18-yard pass to Merrick as W-WG had a 14-12 lead.

"It's probably as much of a battle as I've been in and I've been coaching for almost 30 years," Theisen said. "It was just back and forth."

Heard responded by completing a 26-yard pass on the next drive, and finished the drive with a 15-yard strike to Chace Hulstein, and with the 2-point conversion, Edgerton had a 20-14 lead.

"We talked about at halftime that we're going to have to complete some passes to win," Fleischman said. "Just like we did the last time, we said we had to make some plays to win. And we did, we just didn't make enough."

Taking over at their own 35-yard line, the Chargers needed one play to respond.


On his first carry of the day, Theo Johnson took the handoff from Eichner and, after a nice spin move, ran 75 yards to tie the game at 20-all.

"Theo Johnson comes in for one play and runs for a 75-yard touchdown," Theisen said. "That's the type of players we have. Everybody just stepped up."

The first two Edgerton drives in the fourth quarter each ended with interceptions (Aaron Theisen, Garrett Amundson) as W-WG went back to work.

Under pressure, Eichner found Comnick for a 27-yard touchdown strike, giving the Chargers a 27-20 lead with five minutes remaining in the game.

"Derek is a quarterback, no doubt about it," Theisen said. "He was cramped up and could hardly move, but I told him that we needed him in there, both offensively and defensively."

With cramps and a heavy rush, Eichner was still able to orchestrate the game-winning touchdown drive.

"They were hitting hard and they get a lot of pressure," Eichner said. "I had to get the ball off quickly and my receivers caught it."

The Charger defense came up with a stop on the next possession and turned the ball over to the offense to run out the final 3:49.


On the cramping legs of Merrick, the offense did just that to secure the victory.

"It's beautiful," Theisen said of the victory. "We have a friendly rivalry with Andy and the whole Edgerton gang. We respect them totally and they played hard."

Johnson led the W-WG defense with 19 tackles, while Justin Knakmuhs had 16 tackles and a sack. Michael Jarmer had a sack and 11 tackles on the game.

W-WG will face Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley Saturday at noon at Southwest Minnesota State in Marshall.

"We really think we can go up to Marshall and play with Clinton," Theisen said. "We know that we can match up and hopefully we can heal up. We'll be on the fast turf at Marshall, so if we can get Merrick and those guys healed up we're going to be in pretty good shape."

W-WG 0 0 20 7 -- 27

Edgerton 6 0 14 0 -- 20

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