Huskies hold on to close 31-28 victory

JACKSON -- The downward spiral continued Wednesday for Worthington's football team. After driving 44 yards in 1:07, the Trojans turned the ball over in Jackson County Central territory with 31 seconds remaining and suffered a 31-28 loss in the se...

JACKSON -- The downward spiral continued Wednesday for Worthington's football team.

After driving 44 yards in 1:07, the Trojans turned the ball over in Jackson County Central territory with 31 seconds remaining and suffered a 31-28 loss in the season finale for both teams.

It was Worthington's fifth consecutive loss and its second heartbreaking loss in six days. On Friday, Redwood Valley scored a touchdown with 10 seconds remaining to defeat the Trojans 31-24.

"I don't know what to say," Worthington coach Dennis Hale said. "I feel bad for the kids. Again, a lot of guys are crying and feeling terrible, but we have to forget about it -- we're in the playoffs.

"In order to win a section (title), you have to win three games -- it doesn't matter what seed you are or who you're playing. It's time to man-up, as they say."


Eighth-seeded Worthington will travel to face top-seeded Fairmont on Tuesday in the Section 2AAA tournament.

The Cardinals defeated the Trojans 35-19 in the first game of the season.

Third-seeded JCC will host sixth-seeded Windom in the Section 3AA tournament.

The Trojans trailed by 17 points with 11:06 remaining Wednesday night but scored 14 unanswered points to pull to within three.

The Huskies followed with a nine-play drive that milked 3:04 off the clock before punting.

The Trojans took over at their own 21-yard line with 1:38 remaining and promptly committed a false-start penalty that pushed them back to their own 16.

Worthington senior quarterback Kyle Vaske connected with Mike Vorwald on a screen pass that went for 22 yards. Vaske then found Derek Busswitz for an 8-yard gain before back-to-back incompletions forced a fourth-and-2 situation.

After a Worthington timeout, Tony Thier rushed for a 9-yard gain to give the Trojans a first down at the JCC 45.


Two plays later, Vaske threw a short pass to junior running back Mitchell Jensen, who turned upfield and appeared to have gained enough yardage for another first down. But Jordan Phibbs' hit forced the ball loose, and Skylar Prochaska recovered the fumble.

"I'm glad we were able to run the clock out; we were fortunate to win," JCC coach Tom Schuller said. "It was that kind of game where the last team to have the ball probably thought they had a pretty good chance to win."

Through two quarters, it didn't look like Worthington had much of a chance.

The Trojans scored on the game's first possession -- an eight-play, 66-yard drive capped by Thier's 16-yard touchdown run.

The Huskies responded.

Senior quarterback Nathan Brandt converted twice on third-and-short with passes to Patrick Garvin (19 yards) and Joel Hartzler (22 yards) before ending the eight-play, 58-yard drive with a 1-yard TD plunge.

After Worthington went three-and-out, Brandt connected with Garvin on a 41-yard pass, setting up a Trevor Hage field goal.

Four plays from scrimmage later, Vaske fumbled while being sacked. JCC's Dan Knips recovered, and, on the next play, Brandt threw a 42-yard pass down the right sideline to Hartzler, who was tackled on Worthington's 1-yard line.


Brandt followed with his second 1-yard TD run of the night, pushing the Huskies' lead to 17-6.

Brandt wasn't finished.

On JCC's next drive, he tossed a 26-yard pass to Joey Schmidt on third-and-13. Facing another third-and-13 situation later in the drive, he found Garvin on a slant for a 16-yard gain. He followed with a 15-yard run on the ensuing play, and, four plays later, he hooked up with Hage on a 10-yard touchdown pass.

The Trojans answered with a six-play, 70-yard scoring drive, capped by Jensen's 46-yard touchdown run. The two-point conversion failed -- the first of three failed two-point tries on the night for the Trojans.

Worthington forced JCC to punt after three plays from scrimmage. But the snap sailed over the head of Brandt, who corralled the ball in the end zone and stepped out the back for a safety.

Riding a sudden swing of momentum, the Trojans received the free kick at their own 48-yard line and quickly drove to JCC's 18.

On third-and-10, Omot took a reverse handoff around the left side for 11 yards. But the play was nullified on a holding call, and Vaske was sacked to end the half.

Five plays into the second half, the worst-case scenario for JCC unfolded on the field.


After scampering for a 3-yard gain, Brandt left the field with a knee injury. He did not return.

"We do have a good backup quarterback, but, obviously, there's not another Nathan Brandt sitting around in Jackson or Lakefield or Sioux Valley," Schuller said.

Hartzler took over under center, and he promptly threw an interception on his first snap.

Each team went scoreless in the third quarter, but Hartzler eventually settled down. He capped a 10-play, 60-yard drive with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Garvin less than a minute into the fourth quarter.

"I have good confidence in Joel," Garvin said. "He has an unbelievable arm. He'd be a useful quarterback if he had time to do it -- we ask him to play defensive end and tight end, so he doesn't get a lot of (repetitions) at quarterback."

Suddenly, however, Worthington's offense came to life.

Jensen, who moved the chains twice on fourth-down runs, capped a nine-play, 69-yard drive with a 25-yard touchdown reception.

After JCC went three-and-out, Jensen, four plays after breaking off a 31-yard run, scored on a 3-yard dive to pull the Trojans to within three, 31-28.


Jensen finished with 16 carries for 175 yards and two touchdowns. He added five receptions for 49 yards and a score. But his career night ended in heartbreak.

After his fumble sealed Worthington's fate, JCC's players sprinted toward their sideline, shouting in celebration. Jensen remained on the grass, hands on head, before finally trudging back to the bench.

Thier added 90 yards and a score on 10 carries, and Vaske finished 20-for-39 passing for 197 yards and a touchdown.

Vorwald had five receptions for 69 yards, and Omot had five receptions -- all in the first half -- for 43 yards.

Brandt, who had five rushes for 31 yards and two scores, went 7-for-10 passing for 171 yards and a touchdown before leaving the game.

"I'm just thinking it's a strain," he said. "I'll be back, hopefully, next week."

Brandt's replacement, Hartzler, went 3-for-10 passing for 33 yards and a touchdown. He also had two receptions for 64 yards.

Prochaska had 13 carries for 59 yards, and Garvin finished with four receptions for 82 yards and a touchdown.


"We showed a lot of heart, and they showed a lot of heart," Garvin said. "We showed a lot of heart getting the stand at the end, getting the fumble.

"I don't know how we won, but we did."

Worthington 6 8 0 14 -- 28

JCC 17 7 0 7 -- 31

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