Prep football: Despite mid-game trouble, Esko pulls away from Two Harbors
The Agates pulled within a touchdown early in the third quarter, but a blocked punt and an interception in the end zone gave Esko the opportunity to put the game away.
TWO HARBORS — With Two Harbors threatening deep in Esko territory, sophomore Jacion Owens intercepted a pass in the Eskomos end zone to end the Agates' scoring threat Friday at Halstead Field.
Already leading 30-14, Esko got two big runs from Javontae Gregory and then quarterback Ty Christensen found Koi Perich in the back of the end zone to give the Eskomos a 37-14 win.
“I was always told by coaches and players to be ready when I’m called upon,” Owens said. “When I got in, the guy ran a slant on the deep side and the other corner made a good play to set me up for success.”
Esko looked to run away with the game early, going up 21-0 early in the second quarter, but Two Harbors responded with two long passes from Jake Carpenter to Tate Nelson to set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Carpenter to get the Agates on the scoreboard.
Two Harbors kept the Eskomos out of the end zone the rest of the half. After kicking off to start the second half, Two Harbors senior Trent Gomez picked Christensen off to set the Agates up in Esko territory.
On the next play, Deacon Bark broke loose for a 45-yard touchdown run that cut the lead to 21-14 with more than 10 minutes left in the third quarter.
Two Harbors forced another Esko punt following the kickoff, but the punt pinned them deep in their own territory. After Esko held the Agates on three consecutive plays, Ryan Strum broke through the line and blocked the Two Harbors punt out of the end zone for a safety.
Nolan Witt scored from 10 yards out after the Two Harbors kick to make the score 30-14 and Owens’ interception and the ensuing score put the game away.
Esko coach Scott Arntson was frustrated with penalties that stalled several drives in the second and third quarter, but he noted that the Agates are always a tough date on the schedule.
“These are always tough games — this is what you expect from Esko/Two Harbors,” Arntson said. “These are ridiculously tough games for us and they always are. I think we need these tests and I don’t think we responded as well as we could have and these are the things that we need to keep getting better at.”
Two Harbors coach Tom Nelson said he was “thrilled” with the way his team responded to the challenge of playing Esko, the No. 2 ranked Class AAA team in Minnesota.
“Our kids hung in there,” Nelson said. “They could have folded, they could have crumbled, they could have given up and packed it in, but they didn’t. We’re really young — we start seven sophomores on offense, we don’t start a senior on the defensive line. So I’m proud of these kids, that’s tough for a young, inexperienced team to go against a good team like that.”
Esko (5-0) will host Hibbing at 5 p.m. Friday.
Two Harbors will play at Pine City at 7 p.m. Friday.