Akron-Westfield edges MMCRU by one point in district battle

Tuesday, September 13, 2022
(Sentinel Photo By Allen Hamil) Akron-Westfield quarterback Conner Wendel makes a pass in Friday’s game at MMCRU. Wendel threw a 39-yard touchdown pass to Michael Swancutt and rushed for two scores in the second half to help lead the Westerners to their first win of the season.

MARCUS — A clash of Class A District 1 teams came down to the wire on Friday with the Akron-Westfield football team edging out a 21-20 win over MMCRU.

“Quite an exciting game tonight,” A-W Head Coach Eric Walkingstick said. “MMCRU has come so far as a program, they’ve worked so hard. We knew going into this game, they were going to be ready and this was going to be a close ball game. They fought all the way to the end. We fought all the way to the end and we knew it would end up something like this. It was a great testament to my young men coming out here, fighting hard and staying with it.”

Akron-Westfield rallied late in the game after being held scoreless in the first half and for most of the third quarter.

MMCRU has now lost back-to-back games while leading by more than one possession in the second half. The latest comes after giving up a late lead to Hinton and losing in overtime the week prior. MMCRU Head Coach Kyle Oswald said the Royals are still missing a killer instinct at the end of games.

“We just got something that can’t get us over that hump,” Oswald said. “Again, up two scores in the fourth quarter. I don’t know if it’s we’re just so nervous to let the lead go that we do, that we screw up or what. Somewhere, I’ve got to find the killer instinct. I’m going to scratch my brain to try to figure it out. That’s the only thing that’s missing right now is delivering the knockout blow.”

A 39-yard touchdown pass from Conner Wendel to Michael Swancutt with 16.4 seconds left in the third quarter broke the goose egg on the scoreboard. It was part of a 16-of-31 passing night for 179 yards for Wendel who also threw three interceptions.

“What happened on that play is we kind of settled in a little bit,” Walkingstick said. “We’ve been rotating quarterbacks and the quarterback, Conner Wendel, came in and made some mistakes and had to settle down a little bit and gained experience. He threw a great pass over the top and made a huge play. That’s what we needed, that’s what we had to have to be able to win this game.”

The Westerners recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff return from the Royals on an evening where intermittent rain showers made conditions a bit slippery at times. A-W was unable to capitalize on that turnover, giving the ball back to the Royals on downs, but they were able to capitalize on the next possesion after getting the ball back via an interception.

Wendel found an opening in the MMCRU defense and ran for an 18-yard touchdown to make it 14-12 in favor of the Westerners with 9:13 remaining.

Facing their first deficit of the game, MMCRU put together a solid drive which began at their own 23-yard line and ended in the end zone for a touchdown. A few nice pass plays coupled with some penalties against the Westerners led to the Royals getting a 1-yard touchdown run from Jonah Petersen to retake the lead.

Oswald said it was a great drive.

“If we do that drive all the time, we’re never behind in this game,” Oswald said.

The Royals followed up the touchdown with the 2-point conversion to make it 20-14 in favor of the home team as Petersen escaped a sack and made a throw to the back right corner of the end zone where Kyler Bork came down with the ball.

(Sentinel Photo By Allen Hamil) MMCRU receiver Kyler Bork goes up for a 2-point conversion catch over the outstretched arm of Laytin Koch and another Akron-Westfield defender, Tatum Wilken.

The Westerners put together their game-winning drive by starting from their own 32-yard line. Wendel ran in for his second score on a 6-yard play with 2:45 left in the game.

An extra point kick for Jacob Meyers gave the Westerners the 21-20 lead.

The Royals got the ball back and worked from their own 23-yard line to the opposing 23-yard line where they faced a 4th-and-20 situation. Jack Terpstra was able to intercept a pass in the end zone to get the ball back for the Westerners with a minute remaining, the third of three interceptions by the A-W defense.

“The defense has been stellar, they’ve been doing a great job,” Walkingstick said. “They chip away and they’re not the biggest group in the world, but they’re aggressive.”

The Westerners were able to work the clock down to 6.2 seconds before having to punt the ball away on fourth down after the Royals used all of their timeouts. The Royals got one final chance with 1.8 seconds left and ran a hook-and-ladder play with the receiver catching the ball and tossing back to another receiver. A series of laterals kept the play going for about 30 seconds before the Westerners were finally able to cover up the loose football to seal the win.

Walkingstick said it was good to finally get a win after losing their first two games of the season.

“It’s huge. With a young, inexperienced team, sometimes they make mistakes and they don’t know sometimes how to get to pressure situations and come out of it with their head up,” Walkingstick said. “But, for us, we did a great job of keeping our head up, fighting as a family, fighting as a team and doing things right.”

For the Royals, who jumped out to a 12-0 halftime lead with an interception return for a score from Noah Galles, one of his two picks in the game, and a rushing score for Mason Roberts, trying to build on the positives of the first half will be key going forward.

“I like it when we can run the ball the way we’re supposed to. Defensively, when we finally get some pressure, we can do some great things,” Oswald said.

The Royals (1-2, 0-2 district) will travel to play Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn (2-1, 2-0 district) on Friday in a district contest.

Akron-Westfield (1-2, 1-1 district) will host Woodbury Central (3-0) in a non-district game Friday.

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