MW FOOTBALL: Thunder top Bluejays
WORTHINGTON -- For a moment, Joe Harris thought he scored the game-winning touchdown. But the running back on Minnesota West's football team could only stand on the sidelines and watch as Fond du Lac scored in the final minute, sealing a 32-26 vi...
WORTHINGTON -- For a moment, Joe Harris thought he scored the game-winning touchdown.
But the running back on Minnesota West's football team could only stand on the sidelines and watch as Fond du Lac scored in the final minute, sealing a 32-26 victory Saturday.
"I felt like we had the game at that moment because I know how my team plays under pressure," Harris said of his one-yard plunge with 2:32 remaining. "I felt that like we had the game. I guess I assumed wrong. We just have to fix these things, and we have to be ready next week. We have to."
Entering the game with a perfect 2-0 record, Minnesota West never found its rhythm offensively.
The Bluejays gained 206 yards of total offense. Fond du Lac had 406.
"We really struggled," Harris said. "Right now, we are having a hard time functioning. We have to play as a team offensively and defensively. We all have to be on the same page. There are just small corrections that we can fix (today), and we'll be ready next week."
Early on, Harris was struggling to find any running space.
"Personally, there were a couple corrections I had to make," said Harris, who had 38 yards on eight carries in the first half. "I started off a little bit soft. I had to pick it up individually. I'm trying my best to carry this team. I just picked it up and played my game, I played the best I could to my ability."
"Right at the halftime, I had to look at some things and correct some things myself. I saw a lot of cutbacks here and there."
The sophomore found his groove in the second half, running for 94 yards. He finished with 132 yards on 22 carries.
MW quarterback Teddy Joseph finished 7-for-19 passing for 83 yards and two interceptions.
His counterpart, Michael Davis, was 18-for-29 for 197 yards. He also had 44 yards rushing, often times picking up positive yards when the West defense brought pressure.
"A lot of that was broken plays where the quarterback caused problems," MW head coach Jeff Linder said. "We had coverage, he'd get out of the pocket and we didn't have him contained."
In the final drive, Davis was as good as he was all game.
Taking over at their own 35, the Thunder trailed by one point with 2:26 remaining in the game.
"I was thinking going out there was that we were going to come out and get a pick- six, end the game and just go home with a victory," safety Deshawn Lawrence said. "Unfortunately, it wasn't like that."
After a first down, FDL had a first-and-10 from its own 47.
A play for no gain, an incomplete pass and a five-yard loss later, the Thunder were facing a do-or-die fourth-and-15.
On the desperation play with 1:03 remaining, Davis found Ronrico Ragsdale for an 18-yard completion, keeping the Thunder's hopes alive.
"If they wouldn't have converted that, game over," Linder said. "We just didn't redirect the receiver. Instead of knocking him off his route, he just came through clean. The safety should have seen it anyway."
Like a punch to the stomach, the conversion took all the wind out of the Bluejays. Davis found Tim Myles for a 35-yard gain on the next play and Karus Cornett (27 rushes, 102 yards) followed with a five-yard touchdown run, giving FDL the 32-26 lead.
MW had one last chance, but three incomplete passes and a nine-yard gain on fourth-and-10 sealed the FDL win.
"They made plays and we didn't," Linder said. "When it came right down to it, when we needed to make a play, we didn't. I'm not going to make excuses for the defense. They were in position, they just didn't stop it."
Only minutes before, the Bluejays looked as if they were in position to steal the win.
A heavy dose of Harris gave MW the ball inside the 5-yard line in the final three minutes.
Facing a third-and-goal from the 1, Harris leapt over the pile of linemen and rolled into the end zone for the game-tying touchdown.
"I felt like I was over," Harris said. "At the moment when I jumped, I was like, 'It might not be good.' But I landed on somebody, so I just rolled over and got the touchdown."
Octavio Jimenez made the PAT and MW had a 26-25 advantage -- its only lead of the game -- with 2:32 remaining.
But Davis and the Thunder made key plays in the final minutes, taking the non-division contest.
FDL marched down the field on its first drive of the game, but the West defense held with its back against the end zone. But after a quick interception, the defense was back on the field.
"We put them in real bad situations at times and they held a couple times," Linder said. "We can't keep up with that when we keep them out there all the time. We're constantly running with those guys, it's just too much."
Davis found Michael Darden for a 23-yard touchdown strike on the first play after the turnover as FDL had a 7-0 lead.
That advantage grew to 13-0 after a three-yard score by Daniel Mason.
But MW answered. After a long pass from Joseph to Dontreal McKinley, Reggie Allen Jr. plunged in from two yards out cutting the deficit to 13-6.
On the first play of the second quarter, Lawrence stepped in front of a Davis pass and rumbled 78 yards for a touchdown.
"It was amazing," said Lawrence, who had two interceptions in the game. "(Assistant coach) Eric (Washington) and I went over a few plays before practice. He told me to be patient, it was going to come to me. I just made a play."
Lawrence had open space, but had to make a move to avoid Davis inside the 20.
"I thought he was going to get me," Lawrence said. "I stepped to the side, came back, had a nice block and got in the end zone."
MW made another nice defensive stand on the next possession, making a key play on a fourth-and-goal from inside the 1-yard line to keep the Thunder out of the end zone.
But MW couldn't capitalize and FDL scored on its next possession on a 15-yard TD pass from Davis to Ragsdale.
Allen scored his second touchdown of the game late in the second quarter, tying the game at 19-all heading into halftime.
Neither team found paydirt in the third quarter, but FDL scored on a Cornett six-yard burst in the third, taking a 25-19 and setting up the wild finish and ending MW's perfect season.
"Starting (today) with film sessions, we have to take things way more seriously," Harris said. "We started off 2-0, and we felt like we were untouchable. We have to take practice more seriously and take practice as if it's a game. I felt like we haven't been doing that so far. Starting (today), we have to take practice as if it's a game in order for this not happen again. Me, just like the rest of the team, hates this feeling right now. We're going to have to fix this."
The Bluejays travel to Mesabi Range on Saturday.
"I think we really needed this to get a wake-up call," Lawrence said. "Next week, we're going hard. We need to come out with a victory."
MW returns home in two weeks for its Homecoming game against Northland.
"We just need to refocus on what we do and who we are," Linder said. "We have to stay together. What I told them in the huddle was that there was nothing we can do about the scoreboard right now. It is what it is. That game doesn't make the season, there is a lot of season left. It's what we do with it."
FDL 13 6 0 13 -- 32
MW 6 13 0 7 -- 26