Knights deny Wolverines a trip to Fargodome
A Section 6AA semifinal victory that floated in front of them like a lobbed pass through four quarters Saturday eluded Wadena-Deer Creek 28-27 in the final minutes of play.
After Max Phillips snagged a clutch 25-yard touchdown pass with 1:47 to go bringing the Wolverines within one point of a tie, Jake Dykhoff's conversion run for the victory was stuffed by the West Central Area-Ashby defense.
The result was an end to Wadena-Deer Creek's October run which saw the sixth-seeded Wolverines win their final two regular season games and post a 42-20 playoff victory last Tuesday over No. 3-seeded Staples-Motley. A victory over the No. 2 seeded Knights would have secured WDC's first section championship trip to the Fargodome.
Jake Dykhoff put the Wolverines on the right track early with a 64-yard scoring run four plays into WDC's opening series.
The Knights charged right back with a 78-yard march capped by Dawson Staples' 70-yard catch and run. WCA-Ashby quarterback Ross Anderson lifted the Knights on top with a keeper play.
The two clubs traded touchdowns again in the second quarter.
Starting their first drive of the second quarter on WCA-Ashby's 27, the Wolverines punched in a six-play drive with running star Matt Goeden going over from the three.
The Wolverines nursed a 13-8 lead until the Knights regained the lead on a 13-yard flip from Anderson to Levi Larkin with only 54 seconds left in the first half.
When the officiating crew ruled the Wolverines had possession of a third quarter fumble by the Knights on the WCA-Ashby 25, the short field advantage triggered a quick two-play drive that saw Dykhoff winding his way 19 yards for WDC's third rushing touchdown of the night.
The Wolverines managed to hold the Knights scoreless in the third quarter and went into the final quarter leading 21-14.
The Knights, who drew 15 flags and a whopping 140 yards in penalties, shook off their quiet third quarter to score back-to-back touchdowns in the final stanza.
They scored their first points on the second play of the fourth quarter with Brady Sabolik busting over from 19 yards out to cap a 74-play drive.
Anderson got back into the scoring column after driving the Knights 45 yards for a three-yard plunge with 7:37 to go for a 28-21 lead.
Passes of 28 yards to Parker Clavin and 18-yards to Staples set up the go-ahead touchdown.
The Wolverines, who worked so hard to reclaim their team pride after an 0-6 start, were stopped on their answering drive but found themselves in possession of the ball with 2:17 left to play.
Starting on their own 21 they drove deep into WCA-Ashby territory with 1:54 to go. On a first down play from the 25, Phillips pulled in a pass from Dykhoff to give the Wolverines a tantalizing glimpse of a section championship game with Pillager.
The Wolverines lost their top rushing threat on the play as Goeden headed to the sidelines. WDC Head Coach Howie Kangas wanted to let player who had rolled up a team-high 124 yards of rushing offense but instead he had to called Dykhoff's number. The Knights were waiting when Dykhoff tried to punch in the go-ahead conversion.
After a four-touchdown passing night against Staples-Motley Oct. 24 for their first playoff win since 1998, Dykhoff went 9-for-22 in the air for 90 yards. Phillips and Preston Warren both had three grabs and combined for 62 yards. Warren had a target on his back after grabbing three touchdown passes in the playoff win over No. 3 Staples-Motley. The Wolverines did not have the services of senior tight end Ryan Anderson.
Anderson was very careful with his 14 passes and completed nine of them.
While the Wolverines controlled the rushing game 252-120 it was the Knights that controlled the air. Anderson hit the 6-1 Staples with two passes for 90 yards. Larkin and Clavin combined for six catches and 109 yards.
"The big difference in the game I thought was the size of their receivers," Kangas said. "We were trying to cover them with 5-8 guys."
Kangas shared his team's pain after the loss but he also saw a good run in October.
"It was a fun run," Kangas said. "This loss is certainly going to stay with them for awhile but it isn't going to dampen the fact that we stayed the course after losing the first six."
WDC 7 6 8 6 - 27
WCA-A 8 6 0 14 - 28
WDC: Jake Dykhoff (PAT Tobias Grillmeier kick); Matt Goeden 3 yd run (PAT failed), Dykhoff 19 yard run (PAT Goeden run), Max Phillips 25 yd pass from Dykhoff (PAT failed)
WCA-A: Dawson Staples 70 yd pass from Ross Anderson (PAT Anderson run), Levi Larkin 13 y pass from Ross Anderson (PAT failed), Brady Sabolik 19 yd run (PAT Larkin run), Anderson 3 yd run (PAT failed)
First Downs 19 13
Yards Rushing 252 120
Yards Passing 90 218
Total Yards 342 338
Passes 9-22 9-14
Intercepted by 0 1
Fumbles lost 0 1
Penalties 9-50 15-140