Esko junior Nolan Witt ran for two touchdowns to lead the Eskomos to a 24-0 home win over Two Harbors in a Northeast White matchup Friday, Oct. 1.
Witt broke free for his first score midway through the second quarter on a 41-yard scoring run to give Esko a 7-0 lead.
“It was wide open,” Witt said. “The line did a nice job opening it up and setting blocks.”
While Witt put together a nice game with 133 yards on 11 carries, the Two Harbors defense was able to limit the Eskomo offense to just 229 yards of total offense.
Esko coach Scott Arntson said the team relied on Witt to keep the offense moving and allow other plays to open up.
“Nolan’s the key, he’s our hammer,” Arntson said. “When you run option, you’ve got to have a threat to hit that dive. If you don’t have the threat to hit the dive, it’s pretty easy to stop the rest of it. He’s our guy and he’s done everything to get himself ready for this season.”
After recovering a Two Harbors fumble at the Esko 47-yard line with less than three minutes in the half, the team drove to the Two Harbors 7 and Wyatt Stankiewicz hit a 25-yard field goal to extend the lead to 10-0 at halftime.
Esko took the opening kickoff to the Two Harbors 32-yard line, but failed to convert on a fourth-and-6 play and turned the ball over.
The Agates threatened to get back in the game, going on a 9-minute drive to the Esko 11-yard line. Two Harbors converted two fourth-and-1 plays in the drive, but failed on a fourth-and-11 play and gave the ball back to Esko with 11 minutes remaining in the game.
Esko went on an 8-minute drive capped by Witt’s second touchdown run from 28 yards away to make the score 17-0.
Two Harbors quarterback Ethan Bopp connected with Zach Bentler and Kyler Pitkanen for 20 and 16 yards, respectively, on consecutive plays to get Two Harbors into position for a late score.
On the next play, however, Makoi Perich picked Bopp off and returned the ball 80 yards for a touchdown with just 2 seconds remaining in the game.
Arntson gave credit for the win to the defense and the way defensive coordinator George Perich prepared the team for Two Harbors' run-heavy attack.
“Perich does a fantastic job with our defense — they definitely won the game for us this year,” Arntson said. “In order for kids to stop that you have to sacrifice yourself a little bit and we have kids willing to do that in order for us to play good defensively.”
Two Harbors coach Tom Nelson was disappointed with the loss, but was proud of his defense’s performance in holding Esko to just 17 points on offense, the Eskomos’ lowest output of the season, especially three freshman and two sophomores playing big minutes in the second half.
“They played their responsibilities, they read their keys — they did what they were taught all week,” Nelson said. “They gave up a couple of big plays, which obviously hurt us, but quite honestly, the defense played great.”
Nelson said the team is dealing with some key injuries and the offense is still finding a rhythm, but he thinks it could be a different outcome if the Agates face off against Esko again in the section playoffs in a few weeks.
“They’re a very good football team, but we would love the opportunity to have another shot in the playoffs,” Nelson said. “If we can be a little healthier, then hopefully it’ll help out a little bit. But give them credit, they did what they needed to do.”
Esko (5-0) plays at Hibbing at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 8.
Two Harbors (3-2) is scheduled to host Pine City at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 8.
Two Harbors 0-0-0-0—0
E — Nolan Witt 41 run (Wyatt Stankiewicz kick)
E — Stankiewicz 25 kick
E — Witt 28 run (Stankiewicz kick)
E — Makoi Perich 80 interception return (Stankiewicz kick)