E-Hawks Claim District Title
HARTLEY – If you believe in omens, Emmetsburg’s game Friday night against Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn was destined to be a beauty.
For starters, the game was played in Hartley, which has always been a venue the E-Hawks find challenging every time they visit. Add in the fact that HMS was loaded for bear and would have loved nothing better than to knock off the E-Hawks, and the fact that it was the final game of the regular season, and all those ingredients all made for a whale of a game, just as it should have been.
Oh, and did we mention there was also a full moon hanging over the field as well on Friday night?
When it all shook out at the end, Emmetsburg survived10 penalties and came up with some huge defensive efforts to earn a 35-17 win over the Hawks and lock up the Class 1A District Two Championship, as well as qualify for the post season playoffs for the 35th time in E-Hawk football history.
But it simply wasn’t as easy as all that.
The E-Hawks got the opening kick and promptly were forced to punt the ball at their 35 in the face of a stiff HMS defense. The punt was fielded by HMS’s Josh Treybal, who picked, dodged and weaved his way back for an apparent 60 yard punt return touchdown, but a hold on the Hawks nullified the score and brought HMS back to their own 32 yard line to start.
Dodging an early bullet, the E-Hawks came out on defense and made something happen in a big way. On second down, Treybal tried to sweep on the far side of the field only to be met by the E-Hawk defense. Ben McCain made a swipe at the ball as the runner was being wrapped up and the ball squirted into McCain’s hands at the 37.
The senior defensive back wheeled and turned to the end zone, outracing the stunned Hawks to score on the 37 yard fumble recovery with 9:42 to go in the first quarter. McCain added his own conversion kick for a 7-0 lead.
Emmetsburg would be bitten two plays in a row by facemask penalties on the Hawks, next possession, but a determined defensive stand would force HMS to settle for a 32 yard field goal by Brett Flynn at the 6:31 mark for a 7-3 tally.
The E-Hawks would take over but would punt once again to the Hawks, who would face the same road and punt the ball back to end the first quarter.
Facing a third and seven at their own 30 to start the second frame, Emmetsburg was forced into a punt, only to see the snap for the punt be muffed by punter Jake Jackson, who would fall on the loose ball at the E-Hawk 10-yard line.
The Hawks quickly moved in and got to the four yard line but fumbled the ball. As several E-Hawks dived for the loose ball, no whistle was blown until a flag was thrown for a late hit on Emmetsburg. Despite protests by the Emmetsburg coaching staff, the foul was assessed and the ball given back to HMS at the four yard line.
The E-Hawks dropped the runner for a three-yard loss on the next play, but with 10:39 to go in the half, quarterback Justin Wohlert kept the ball and got into the end zone from seven yards away. The conversion kick was good and HMS had taken a 10-7 lead over Emmetsburg.
An onside kick attempt didn’t work, as Austin McCartan would get the ball at the E-Hawk 37, but Emmetsburg would once again be forced to punt. The Hawks would take over at their own 22 yard line and began driving, but with 7:05 to go in the half, Brady Berkland intercepted a pass at Emmetsburg’s 43 yard line and returned it to the Hawks’ 37 yard line.
But, the turnover would end up facing fourth and nine and Emmetsburg tried a fake punt, only to come up short and turn the ball over at the HMS?35 yard stripe. The defense came up with a tackle for a loss that would end up forcing a punt into the end zone and touchback for the E-Hawks.
Starting at their own 20, Emmetsburg went on a drive covering 80 yards in the final 2:00 that would be culminated an Brady Berkland making an over-the-shoulder catch of a 40 yard strike from Cory Schultes for a 14-0 lead. Ben McCain added the conversion kick and the E-Hawks were back in command by a 14-10 tally at the halftime break.
The E-Hawks kicked off to start the second half, which turned into an exchange of punts for the two squads on their first possessions.
HMS got the ball at their 20 on a touchback and began driving downfield, but with 5:20 to go in the quarter, Ben McCain picked off a pass at the E-Hawk 38 yard line and returned it to the 19 yard line. A penalty for an illegal block on the E-Hawks brought the ball to the HMS?29 yard line, giving Emmetsburg the first down. The E-Hawks ground the ball towards the goal line and with 3:41 to go in the quarter, Andrew Wellik racked in from three yards out to score. McCain’s kick was true to give Emmetsburg a 21-10 lead, but there was plenty of football yet to be played.
The Hawks took over after the kick and got a 77 yard return down to the Emmetsburg 11 yard stripe as the E-Hawk defense scrambled. HMS ground away and got to the one-yard line for a first and goal. The E-Hawks lined up for the snap and put on the blitz. The snap bounced out of quarterback Justin Wohlert’s hands as Marcus Akridge blasted in and the ball squirted into the end zone, where Bobby Gappa grabbed it to kill the drive with 1:56 to go in the quarter.
With the ball at the 20 on the fumble recovery in the end zone, Emmetsburg had a little breathing room to finish the quarter and start the E-Hawk quarter.
Facing second and eight at their own 41, Emmetsburg got the first down and kept grinding away at the Hawks, managing to carve away pieces of real estate. But with 9:31 to go in the game, Schultes put the ball in the hands of Brady Berkland, who bounced off a pair of tacklers to race 23 yards for a touchdown, somersaulting into the end zone. McCain added the PAT point for a 28-10 lead as the E-Hawks now had a little breathing room.
Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn took over at their 20 on a touchback and started downfield, but with 6:50 to go in the game, Bobby Gappa picked off a tipped pass at the E-Hawk 45 to kill another Hawk drive.
With the ball at midfield, Emmetsburg wasted little time. The offense swung into gear once again, and on second down, Schultes put the ball in the air, hitting a waiting Austin Oppenheimer on the right side for a 57-yard reception touchdown catch with 6:50 to go in the game. The conversion kick by McCain was on the mark once again and Emmetsburg now held a 35-10 advantage.
The Hawks wouldn’t concede defeat, as they would take over after the kickoff and managed to put together a final scoring drive that was capped off with a 33 yard run by Josh Treybull with 2:14 to go in the game. The kick made the score 35-17 as Emmetsburg would take the ball and run the clock out for the District Championship and the perfect regular season mark.
The E-Hawks would roll up 184 yards rushing in the contest off 52 attempts, while Schultes completed three of seven passes for 109 yards to give the E-Hawks a total of 293 yards of offense.
HMS had 50 rushes for 174 yards on the night and three of 13 passes for 31 yards on the night for a total offense of 205 yards.
Marcus Akridge ran 17 times to gain 69 hard-fought yards, while Brady Berkland added eight carries for 62 yards. Andrew Wellik fought his way for 58 yards off 14 carries and Cory Schultes carried the ball 10 times for 19 yards. Jake Jackson had two rushes but lost 22 yards and Jake Carlson lost two yards on one rushing attempt.
Austin Oppenheimer would make one catch for 57 yards while Brady Berkland added a 40 yard catch and Nick Wuebker had a 12-yard reception for the E-Hawks.
Emmetsburg was whistled 10 times for 74 yards in penalties, while the Hawks were called three times for 30 yards.
Defensively, Emmetsburg got 15 tackles from Ben McCain, along with an interception and a fumble recovery for a touchdown. Brady Berkland added 14 tackles and an interception, while Bobby Gappa had 10 tackles, a fumble recovery and an interception. Austin McCartan added 10 tackles to the effort, while Arthur Heldt chipped in eight tackles and Jake Jackson added seven stops. Ryan Kliegl and Jake Carlson both made five tackles on the night in the game that saw Emmetsburg rack up 100 team tackles.
But for now, the focus shifts to Wednesday night and a Class 1A First Round playoff meeting with Ridge View in a 7 p.m. kickoff at Duane Twait Field in Emmetsburg.