"It's always darkest before the dawn."
With 1:48 to go in Friday's game between West Lyon and Emmetsburg, it looked like the E-Hawks might suffer the cruelest fate, a one-point loss on their home field.
Trailing the Wildcats 12-13, Emmetsburg had seen a 12-0 lead evaporate in less than 3:00 during the fourth quarter, and things weren't looking real hopeful with time running down.
Emmetsburg’s Brady Berkland falls into the end zone for a two-point conversion to give the E-Hawks the insurance score in their 20-13 win over West Lyon Friday night. The E-Hawks stand alone at the top of the district with the victory as they improve to 4-0 in the distirct and 6-0 on the year. --Dan Voigt photo
But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Emmetsburg would win the game in a thrilling 20-13 win over their arch-rivals from West Lyon to take sole possession of the Class 1A District Two lead with a perfect 4-0 mark.
Earning the win involved a lot of hard-hitting, some costly losses, and a bit of good old fashioned luck along the way.
The E-Hawks and West Lyon would trade punts in their opening possessions as the two defenses settled in, but on Emmetsburg's second possession, a 23 yard reception by Jake Carlson broke open the deadlock, giving Emmetsburg a much-needed offensive spark.
The reception brought Emmetsburg to the Wildcat 28, and from there, Marcus Akridge would bring the E-Hawks down to the Wildcat 11, only to turn the ball over on downs with 4:37 to go in the quarter.
West Lyon took over, but a fumble was recovered by Jake Jackson who ran it back 21 yards to put the E-Hawks on the scoreboard with 3:37 to go in the opening quarter. A two-point conversion pass attempt failed, giving the E-Hawks a slim, 6-0 advantage.
After three downs and a punt by the Wildcats, Emmetsburg got the ball back at their own 22 yard line and started marching downfield, However, the drive would be stopped by an interception of a Jake Jackson pass at midfield to end the quarter with Emmetsburg holding the slim, 6-0 lead.
West Lyon would take over and drive to Emmetsburg's 44 yard line to start the second frame, but punted, giving the E-Hawks the ball at their own 10 yard stripe.
After a short run by Andrew Wellik to open the possession, Jackson handed off to Wellik once again as the junior kicked in the overdrive with some key blocks and raced 88 yards down the Emmetsburg sidelines for a touchdown with 9:09 to go in the half.
The conversion run by Akridge was ruled good, but a conference by the officials overturned the decision, giving Emmetsburg a 12-0 lead with plenty of time to go in the half.
West Lyon would take over nd drive down to Emmetsburg's six yard line with 5:56 to go in the half. But a determined defensive stand by Coach Joe Carter's defenders turned the Wildcats away on fourth and four, giving Emmetsburg the ball back on downs.
Wellik and Akridge would carry the ball on successive plays to get out of the shadow of the goalposts and with Austin McCartan, got the ball to the E-Hawk 37, but a fumble by Akridge would end up in the hands of the Wildcats with 4:16 to go in the half.
West Lyon started to drive again with short runs, but faced a fourth and three at the E-Hawk 30, only to be turned away a yard short by another big defensive stop.
Emmetsburg took over at their 28 and started moving downfield, but disaster struck when Jackson ran for a first down but left the offense with a hand injury.
Ryan Kliegl took over the offensive machine, but the E-Haw drive would sputter and end as the half ended with Emmetsburg clinging to the 12-0 lead.
The Wildcats would start at their own 35 in the second half, and ended up punting with 9:03 to go in the third quarter. Emmetsburg took over after the punt but would end up being forced to punt with 6:15 to go in the quarter.
An exchange of punts would ensue, with both the Wildcats and E-Hawks struggling to move the ball against each other's defense.
After an E-Hawk punt with 2:37 to go in the quarter, the Wildcats got the ball at the E-Hawks' 19 after a penalty, but on third down at the 20, Justin Studer picked off a pass at the E-Hawk eight-yard line that had been deflected by Jake Jackson. Studer returned the stolen pass to the 29 to end the Wildcat threat and the third quarter with Emmetsburg still holding the 12-0 advantage.
But the E-Hawks couldn't move the ball to start the final quarter, and were forced to punt just after the start of the quarter. With the ball at the 29, Marcus Akridge took the snap, but West Lyon's Kaleb Heyer managed to block the kick and scooped it up to race 29 yards for the touchdown. Scott Erickson added the conversion kick to narrow the margin to 12-7 with 10:42 remaining in the game.
On the ensuing kickoff, disaster struck again, as Cody Henderson fumbled the kickoff at the E-Hawk 15-yard line and the Wildcats recovered the ball.
The defense dug in again and limited the Wildcats to six yards on three plays, but on fourth and four, a pass to Ada Teunissen for nine yards gave the Wildcats the lead of the contest after the conversion run attempt failed with 8:40 to go in the contest.
Now trailing 13-12, the E-Hawks were in an unfamiliar position. Three downs and a punt would result after the kickoff, but the Wildcats were unable to muster anything in their possession, as they were forced to punt the ball away with 2:05 to go in the game.
Emmetsburg fielded the ball at their own 36 yard line with 1:48 on the clock.
Ryan Kliegl took the E-Hawk offense out on the field with only one thing in mind - to score.
On first down, Kliegl threw to his right for Akridge, but the pass fell incomplete.
Facing second and 10, Kliegl took the snap and dropped back as the E-Hawk line battled to hold off the Wildcat defensive rush. He looked downfield to the left and spotted spilt end Justin Studer in single coverage at the 15-yard line.
The southpaw planted and fired for Studer, who turned to pull the ball into his chest as West Lyon's Charles Stai came flying in, but Studer sidestepped the defender and turned to race for the end zone and the 64-yard scoring strike with just 1:32 to go in the game.
Emmetsburg's fans and bench erupted in cheers as the West Lyon fans were stunned into silence.
The E-Hawks lined up for the conversion and Brady Berkland battered and bulled his way to the end zone before falling over the line for the two-points to give Emmetsburg the 20-13 lead.
A re-energized E-Hawk defense came out and limited West Lyon to three plays before Jake Jackson intercepted a pass to allow the E-Hawks to run out the clock for the sweet victory.
The E-Hawks amassed 223 rushing yards to West Lyon's 93 and had 92 yards passing to the Wildcats' 60 for a total offensive showing of 315 yards as opposed to 153 yards for the Wildcats.
Andrew Wellik had 15 carries for 124 yards, with the 88-yard scoring run, while Marcus Akridge added 13 carries for 53 yards. Brady Berkland gained 35 yards off seven carries while Jake Jackson gained 11 yards off five runs. Austin McCartan picked up a six yard run and Ryan Kliegl ran twice for two yards.
Jackson completed one of two passes for 23 yards to Jake Carlson, while Kliegl made two of five throws for 69 yards, including the 64 yard TD?catch by Studer and a five yard catch by Berkland.
Defensively, the E-Hawks came up big time and time again, with Brady Berkland making 22 tackles on the night, while Marcus Akridge added 11 stops. Jake Jackson had a 21 yard fumble recovery, while Jake Carlson had a quarterback sack in the win.
The attention for the E-Hawks turns to Homecoming this week as they will host Sibley-Ocheyedan on Friday night.