COLFAX — It was the same old story against a different opponent as the Colfax football team lost their sixth straight game with a 38-19 loss to the Stephenson (Michigan) Eagles Oct. 5 on their home field.
Although the Vikings passed for more yardage than the Eagles, the inability to move the ball on the ground combined with not being able to stop the Stephenson ground game pretty much told the story in the loss. Stephenson, which has an enrollment of 225 students is in Division 8 (the smallest division) in Michigan and began the game with a 4-2 record. According to one of their coaches, a team must have six wins to qualify for their playoffs and the Eagles have managed to do that quite often in the last 20 years or so.
The five hour drive down and the cold, windy conditions may have slowed the Eagles a bit as they fumbled on their second play from scrimmage and Trevor Secraw pounced on the ball for the Vikings at midfield. Noah Pretasky, back on the offensive side after missing two games with a shoulder injury ran once with the ball but it was the arm of Dillon Lloyd who kept the ball moving as he connected with Ethin Kiekhafer for a 10 yard completion, followed by a five yarder to Cody Zivcic and an eight yard pass to Michael Hover. Lloyd then scampered for 12 yards and on third and seven from the 10, Lloyd tossed the ball to the left side of the endzone and Kiekhafer out jumped the defensive back to pull it in for a TD.The two point run was stuffed but the Vikings had a 6-0 lead with 4:51 to go in the first quarter.
The Eagles took the ensuing kickoff to their own 36 and with six running plays with two offsides penalties by the Vikings,(one which gave them a first down) in the middle, their workhorse Nolan Lukasik rolled into the endzone from 14 yards out. They added the two point conversion run for an 8-6 lead.
Halfway through the second quarter, the Vikings started with the ball on their own 47 and after a couple of runs by Pretasky resulted in a first down, Lloyd found Zivcic open on the left side for a 35 yard score. Kiekhafer booted the extra point and the lead was back in the Viking’s hands at 13-8 at the 7:05 mark of the half.
But yet again the Eagles came back, using their ground game to move the ball 66 yards with Lukasik scoring from five yards out and adding the two point run for a 16-13 lead. With 1:24 left in the half, Lloyd fumbled as he tried to pass and Stephenson recovered. They tried to score some quick points but on a fourth down, Hover broke up a pass attempt to end the half.
“Lloyd was really connecting with his receivers and they made some big plays,” Colfax coach Mark Maloney said. “Our defense was playing solid, recovering that fumble and forcing two punts but we have had problems stopping the run all season and that’s exactly what happened again.”
And then the Eagles remembered what the long bus ride was for as they opened the second half with two touchdowns in a three minute span. They moved the ball 61 yards in eight plays on their first possession, culminating in a three yard TD by Lukasik, and after forcing a Colfax punt, they blocked it and recovered the ball on the Colfax 19 yard line. In three plays, they were in the endzone again, this time on a one yard plunge by the quarterback. A two point conversion pass made it 30-13 which is how the third quarter ended.
There was a good news -bad news series for the Vikings as they stuffed the Eagles ball carrier on their own one yard line after the Eagles moved the ball 48 yards on 12 plays, but with their backs to the endzone, Pretasky was nailed by a swarming defense for a safety. Having to kick the ball away, Stephenson took it and drove 63 yards on just five plays for another score as the quarterback ran untouched 33 yards down the right side. Sawyer DeMoe knocked down the two point pass attempt but the Eagles were up 38-13 with 9:02 left in the game.
With only 20 players dressed for the game who all happened to be juniors and seniors, the Eagles coach made sure everyone had a chance to step on a Wisconsin field during the final nine minutes and the Vikings took advantage of it. Starting on their own 30, they moved the ball downfield with Pretasky gaining yards on three running plays and Lloyd completed a nine yard pass right up the middle to Jeremiah Wait. Pretasky picked up a first down at the Eagle’s 38 and on the next play, Kiekhafer was all alone on the right side and collected a Lloyd pass for his second score of the game. Those would be the final points of the game for the Vikings as they got the ball back with just under three minutes left but failed to do anything with it.
“Mental breakdowns have plagued us all year,” Maloney said. “We are still trying to find the right players for the right position and getting them to understand who to cover was a problem tonight. We have been telling our players all season that on paper we are just as good as every team we have played.. No one should be beating us by three or more touchdowns. It all comes down to our heart and our heads. We need to play smart and work together. Next week we play Mondovi and they are always very physical so we have to figure out how to deal with that or it will be the same thing,” he added.
Pretasky rushed for 43 yards on 14 carries and Lloyd completed 10 of 18 passes for 117 yards and three TDs with no interceptions. Kiekhafer continues to lead the receiving corps as he collected five passes for 58 yards while Zivcic caught two for 42yards.The Vikings had five penalties called on them for 30 yards.
Lukasik picked up 174 of the Eagles 323 total yards on the ground while Arzack Brown added 64 yards on 11 carries. Quarterback Austin Grinsteiner was just two for 10 passing for 22 yards and the Eagles were penalized three times for 15 yards.
Colfax will play at Mondovi this Friday night in the regular season finale. Because of the eight game schedule this year, teams not in the playoffs have an option to play an extra game, and that is yet to be decided for the Vikings.