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Prep football: Late mistakes cost Esko in state quarterfinal

Twice in the fourth quarter, the Eskomos drove inside the Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton 5-yard line, but came away with just three points.

Esko falls to Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton
Esko's Koi Perich, 21, gives a stiff arm to Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton's Jordan Summers, 1, during the Eskomos' loss in the Class AAA state quarterfinal Saturday in Brainerd.
Dave Samson / Forum News Service
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BRAINERD — With less than 2 minutes remaining and trailing Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton by four points, Joey Antonutti took a direct snap and dove into the end zone from two yards out, giving Esko an apparent lead.

Unfortunately for the Eskomos, there was also a yellow flag on the field behind the play. Antonutti was called for illegal motion. The Eskomos would commit two more pre-snap penalties on the next three plays, forcing a third and goal from the 17-yard line.

Quarterback Ty Christensen tried to find Carter Zezulka in the end zone, but 6 foot, 6 inch defensive back Owen Leach leaped up and intercepted the ball, giving the Rebels the ball at their own 20.

Esko falls to Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton
Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton's Owen Leach reaches to intercept a pass intended for Esko's Makoi Perich with coverage from teammate Caleb Johnson late in the fourth quarter during the Minnesota 3A quarterfinals in Brainerd on Saturday.
Dave Samson / Forum News Service

“We had a quarterback sneak and I guess somebody moved,” Esko coach Scott Arntson said. “If they did, they did and then we just had a couple other false starts that kept putting us behind.”

DGF was able to run out the clock and take the 21-17 win and advance into the Class AA semifinal Saturday at U.S. Bank Stadium.

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The Rebel defense was impressive, holding the high-flying Eskomo offense to less than 24 points for the first time this season.

“That’s what we hang out hat on and why I think we’re a successful program is we take pride in team defense and making people earn everything,” DGF coach Tony Soderberg said. “We don’t like to give up anything for free and we thought we put our kids in a situation to do that. They tackled well, they played well and besides the one touchdown pass at the beginning, they kept everything in front of them.”

Esko falls to Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton
Esko quarterback Ty Christensen launches a touchdown pass against Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton during the Minnesota AAA quarterfinals in Brainerd on Saturday.
Dave Samson / Forum News Service

The Eskomos forced a three-and-out after the Rebels received the opening kickoff and after a pair of touchdowns, Christensen found Koi Perich for a 35-yard touchdown to give Esko a 7-0 lead.

Despite both teams moving the ball, the score would remain 7-0 at halftime. After the Eskomos received the second half kick, they drove to the DGF 19 before turning the ball over on downs.

On the ensuing drive, Leach, also playing quarterback for the Rebels, found Brodey O’Keefe for a 62-yard gain and Jordan Summers punched in three plays later from a yard out to tie the game.

Esko falls to Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton
Esko's Nolan Witt carries against Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton's Jordan Summers during the Minnesota AAA quarterfinals in Brainerd on Saturday.
Dave Samson / Forum News Service

Esko’s Javontae Gregory fumbled the ball near midfield and the ball was recovered by DGF, setting up a 23-yard touchdown strike from Leach to O’Keefe and the Rebels took a 14-7 lead.

Perich tied the game with a 30-yard scoring run at the end of the third quarter and after a bad snap on a punt, the Eskomos were set up at the DGF 28-yard line.

Esko drove to the DGF 3, but a holding penalty forced a 37-yard field goal by Wyatt Hudspith to give the Eskomos a 17-14 lead.

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Esko falls to Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton
Esko's Wyatt Hudspith watches his field goal attempt sail true against Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton during the Minnesota 3A quarterfinals in Brainerd on Saturday.
Dave Samson / Forum News Service

DGF got the ball at their own 15 after the Esko kickoff and Leach found Nick Waale for an 85-yard score to give the Rebels the four-point lead.

“This is our sixth game where we’ve been down in the fourth quarter with under 8 minutes to go and we were able to prevail in all of them,” Soderberg said. “We preach next play, we preach focus and you can’t live in the past, you can’t worry about the future, it’s the play at hand and they just went out and executed.”

The Esko defense again played well, holding DGF running back Jordan Summers to a season-low 62 yards. Summers rushed for more than 2,000 yards this season and averaged 183.5 yards per game and 21 touchdowns.

“The defense has played well all year,” Arntson said. “I have a tremendous amount of confidence in our defense and today was no different. We just had to be able to score, we had opportunities to score, we just were not able to do that.”

Esko falls to Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton
Esko players can only watch the clock tick down against Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton during the Minnesota AAA quarterfinals in Brainerd on Saturday.
Dave Samson / Forum News Service

Esko (11-1) ends its season a game shy of where it ended in 2021, but Arntson knew they were going to be in a hard-fought battle and was proud of the effort his team put into this season.

“We knew this was going to be a pretty good year for us, they’ve done a tremendous amount of work in the offseason and they’re a really tight-knit group,” Arntson said. “This isn’t the way we had hoped or planned for it to end, but we knew all of these games were going to be within one score one way or the other.”

DGF (11-0) will play Fairmont in the Class AAA semifinal at 2 p.m. Saturday at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Fairmont defeated St. Croix Lutheran 49-7 to advance.

Esko 7-0-7-3—17

Duluth/Glyndon/Felton 0-0-14-7—21

E — Koi Perich 35 pass from Ty Christensen (Wyatt Hudspith kick)

DGF — Jordan Summers 1 run (Hayden Hauf kick)

DGF — Brodey O’Keefe 23 pass from Owen Leach (Hauf kick)

E — Perich 30 run (Hudspith kick)

E — Hudspith 35 kick

DGF — Nick Waale 85 pass from Leach (Hauf kick)

Esko falls to Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton
Esko's Makoi Perich snares a touchdown reception in the first quarter against Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton's Brody Friend during the Minnesota AAA quarterfinals in Brainerd on Saturday.
Dave Samson / Forum News Service

Related Topics: ESKO ESKOMOS
Jamey Malcomb has a been high school sports reporter for the Duluth News Tribune since October 2021. He spent the previous six years covering news and sports for the Lake County News-Chronicle in Two Harbors and the Cloquet Pine Journal. He graduated from the George Washington University in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in history and literature and also holds a master's degree in secondary English education from George Mason University.
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