Big plays not enough for Esko
ST. CLOUD -- Almost every big play Saturday at St. Cloud State University's Husky Stadium belonged to the Esko Eskomos. However, it was the long, sustained drives by New London-Spicer that stole the show in a 52-27 victory for the Wildcats in a M...
ST. CLOUD - Almost every big play Saturday at St. Cloud State University’s Husky Stadium belonged to the Esko Eskomos.
However, it was the long, sustained drives by New London-Spicer that stole the show in a 52-27 victory for the Wildcats in a Minnesota Class AAA high school state quarterfinal football game.
“I think they were bigger than us up front and had some pretty skilled athletes out there,” Esko coach Bill Hudspith said. “The one thing they did that really hurt us was control the football. Even though we scored on a couple big plays, you don’t get a lot of momentum.”
Esko scored its points on a 69-yard touchdown run by junior running back Jaxson Turner in the first quarter; a 32-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Nick Emanuel to junior running back Jack Kuhlman in the second quarter; a 14-yard TD toss from Emanuel to senior wide receiver Aaron Olson in the third quarter; and on a 60-yard toss and catch between Emanuel and Turner in the fourth quarter.
In between those big plays, though, Esko was going three plays and out, despite starting nine of 10 drives between their own 35-yard line and the 50.
“You want to have 10-play drives. I think the average in high school is six,” Hudspith said. “We’d like to have long, sustained offensive drives to get the defense a break, but at this level you try to score whenever you can.”
Meanwhile, nine of the Wildcats’ 10 drives went seven plays or longer and seven of the 10 were nine plays or longer. New London-Spicer scored on nine drives, not counting a pair of kneel downs at the end.
It wasn’t until 7:39 to play that the Wildcats were forced to punt for the first and only time Saturday after going three-and-out.
“I thought our offensive linemen’s experience played very well,” Wildcats assistant coach Chad Gustafson said. “Our running backs hit the holes well and I thought we were able to keep them off-balance. They weren’t able to sit on one guy all the time. Having a variety of different guys that could handle the ball was key.”
Wildcats senior tailback Trey Austvold grinded out 182 yards on 25 carries, with touchdown runs of 5, 5 and 10 yards. Only five of his carries went for 10 yards or more with his long being 36.
Senior wide receiver Shane Zylstra finished with 163 yards on 16 carries as he was used mostly as a rusher, specifically in the jet sweep. Zylstra also caught four balls for 72 yards. He was the Wildcats’ big-play threat, scoring on TD runs of 8 and 45 yards.
“It’s real fun knowing everything is clicking - the passing game the running game. It’s all just flowing well,” Austvold said about the Wildcats offense. “Having those long drives keeps our defense fresh and takes a lot of time off the clock. Especially when you put points on the board at the end of the drive, it’s that much better.”
Wildcats senior quarterback Ethan Bohlsen completed his first eight passes and finished 11-of-18 for 166 yards with two TD passes.
For Esko, who won eight straight games to reach the state quarterfinals after an 0-2 start, Emanuel was 10-of-25 passing for 197 yards and two TDs. Turner finished with 93 yards on nine carries, plus two catches in the second half for 81 yards.
“We knew they were really explosive with their tailback and even their passing game,” Gustafson said. “They needed to make every big play once we were able to get them tired a little bit.”
New London-Spicer 20-12-8-12-52
NLS - Cody King 23 pass from Ethan Bohlsen (pass failed)
NLS - Trey Austvold 5 run (Shane Zylstra run)
E - Jaxson Turner 69 run (Ryan Bodie kick)
NLS - Zylstra 8 run (run failed)
NLS - Zylstra 45 run (run failed)
E - Jack Kuhlman 32 pass from Nick Emanuel (kick blocked)
NLS - Austvold 5 run (run failed)
NLS - James Magnuson 11 pass from Bohlsen (Zylstra pass from Bohlsen)
E - Aaron Olson 14 pass from Emanuel (Bodie kick)
NLS - Austvold 10 run (pass failed)
E - Turner 60 pass from Emanuel (Bodie kick)
NLS - Jackson Ness 6 run (kick failed)