WHEW! – E’Hawks 21, St. Ansgar 20
ST. ANSGAR – There’s only one way to sum up Friday’s 21-20 E’Hawk victory – Not real pretty, but a win, nevertheless. Emmetsburg had to battle all four quarters and right down to the final horn to earn the victory over the St. Ansgar Saints, and improve their season mark to 2-0 in district play and 4-0 overall.
“We just couldn’t get much going out there,”?admitted E’Hawk Head Coach Mike Dunlap, “but the kids never quit fighting.”
And that’s just what Friday’s game was – a back-and-forth fight that saw the E’Hawks get off to a sluggish start after taking the opening kickoff and being forced to punt after three plays. St. Ansgar took advantage of the punt to stun the E’Hawks early with a 39 yard run by Cody Marsh for a touchdown with 10:10 to go in the first quarter. Garrett Ehlke’s kick put the Saints up by a 7-0 lead, leaving the E’Hawks trying to regroup.
Emmetsburg would mount a drive that stalled at the Saints 30 and resulted in a punt, but St. Ansgar would fumble and Marcus Akridge would recover the ball near midfield for the E’Hawks.
With good field position, Emmetsburg took over and started marching downfield, using slashing runs by Joey Naig, whom the Saints had trouble corralling, until, with 2:44 to go in the quarter, Naig stretched out to push the ball over the goal line after a 14 yard effort. Ben McCain added the conversion kick to tie the game at 7-7 as the opening quarter concluded.
With the ball to start the second quarter, ?St. Ansgar was forced to punt by the E’Hawk defense, but Emmetsburg fumbled the ball back to the Saints with 11:04 to go in the half. St. Ansgar would mount a 58-yard drive that culminated with Marsh scoring off a 36 yard run with 8:50 to go in the half. The conversion kick made the score 14-7 and put the E’Hawks on the offensive again.
Emmetsburg fielded the kick at their own 21 yard line, and on second and eight, Joey Naig uncorked an 84-yard gallop through the defenders, to race in for the tying touchdown. Ben McCain’s kick was true to the mark, and the E’Hawks had tied the score at 14-14 with 7:58 to go in the half.
The two teams would finish out the half, trading possessions and punts, until, with just :32 to go, a halfback option pass by Naig was intercepted at midfield by the Saints, who ran out the clock to preserve the tie at the intermission.
Something was going to have to happen for the E’Hawks to start the second half, with the Saints getting the ball. That something would be the defense, which bent but would not break, as St. Ansgar would drive from their own 35 down to the Emmetsburg three-yard line where the E’Hawk defense turned them away on downs. with just under 9:00 to go in the quarter.
The E’Hawk offense stalled and was forced to punt, but the Saints ended up in with a similar situation, punting and giving Emmetsburg the start at their own 13-yard line.
Quarterback Cory Schultes helped his own cause with a huge keeper to bring the E’Hawks out of the shadows of their own goalposts. Emmetsburg was able to string together a drive taking them into St. Ansgar territory, using up the clock on the ground-eating drive.
With 1:44 to go in the third, Emmetsburg turned to Joey Naig a third time, as the speedy senior broke through the defense and angled to the corner to score from 14 yards away. Ben McCain added the exclamation point for a 21-20 lead that would start the final quarter.
The Saints opened the final quarter on their own 45-yard line, and needed just two plays to answer the E’Hawks with a 45 yard run by Tony Helmer. But, on the conversion kick attempt by Ehlke, Tommy Kuecker appeared to brush the kick, which sailed wide to the right, making the score 21-20 in favor of the E’Hawks, with 11:18 to play in a game that was far from decided.
Emmetsburg would take over after the kick and work out to the Saints’ 46-yard line, only to fumble the ball to the Saints. With the turnover gift in hand, St. Ansgar worked their way down field, getting a big first down off a questionable spot with 6:00 to play in the contest, and then driving down to the E’Hawk 20 with 5:44 to go. Facing fourth and three at the 20, the Saints went for it, but were stopped two-yards shy by the E’Hawk defense in another huge defensive stand.
Starting at their own 19-yard line, the E’Hawks started grinding their way downfield, but had a 30-plus yard run called back for an illegal block. Getting backed up to their own 30, Emmetsburg turned again to Naig, who responded with a pair of great runs on back-to-back plays of 23 and 21 yards to bring the E’Hawks down to the St. Ansgar 30 yard line as the clock slipped under 1:00.
After losing two yards on first down at the 30, the E’Hawks laid claim to the hard-fought win as Schultes took a knee with :22 to go to end the ballgame in the narrow escape.
The contest had plenty of yardage, as Emmetsburg clawed out 405 yards off 50 rushing plays, compared with 245 yard off 43 plays for the Saints.
The E’Hawks attempted just two passes in the contest, with one interception for no yardage, while St. Ansgar had three of five passes for 29 yards.
Overall, Emmetsburg would rack up 405 yards to St. Ansgar’s 273 yard effort.
Joey Naig toted the load for the E’Hawks with 27 carries for 298 yards, scoring all three touchdowns, and collecting the 84 yard run on the night. Tommy Kuecker added 47 yards of 12 carries, while Brady Berkland added 32 yards on three rushes and Cory Schultes chipped in 29 yards off eight attempts.
Defensively, Emmetsburg got seven tackles from Ben Pelzer and Brady Berkland, while Tyler Henderson made six stops and Tommy Kuecker added five and a half stops.
Marcus Akridge recovered a fumble for the E’Hawks to round out the defense.