By Kelsie Hoitomt
PEPIN – For the first time in 12 years, the Glenwood City football has made it to the state semi-finals.
The Hilltoppers defeated the Pepin/Alma Eagles 34-22 in last Saturday’s nail-biter of a quarter-final game.
The 5-1 Lakeland South Eagles were the number three seed going into the playoffs. They were led by quarterback Cole Carroll and the teams two main running backs, Ryan Erickson and Aikan Major.
The Eagles made it clear they were ready for the challenge in the opening minutes of the game as they received the kick off and proceeded to score the first touchdown on a quarterback keeper to make the score 6-0.
Hilltopper running back Isaac Tuttle quickly ended the Eagles lead as he broke through the line and shot down the center of the field for a 74 yard touchdown run.
Adam Holmquist pushed the ball in for the two-point conversion to give the Hilltoppers their first and last lead of the game until the third quarter.
The Eagles scored their second touchdown after recovering a fumble on the 30 yard line. A 15 yard pass completion to Brody Olson put the Eagles on the one yard line and Major pushed the ball in for the touchdown and the two-point conversion to put the score at 14-8.
The Hilltoppers had the ball on the Eagles nine yard line going into the second quarter through the efforts of Tuttle, Holmquist and Jeff Kopacz who had a 20 yard pass run.
With the ball on the one yard line, Nick Mrdutt held the ball for what appeared to be a touchdown, but a flag on the Hilltoppers brought the ball back out to the five yard line.
The Toppers didn’t let the penalty deter them as Tuttle pushed through the line for the touchdown to knot the score at 14-14 with 11 minutes left in the first half.
The Eagles were not backing down as they started their drive on the 30 yard line and marched down the field where Erickson scored on a three yard run. The two-point conversion was successful on a pass from Carroll to John Nuzum to put the Eagles ahead 22-14.
The Hilltoppers received the kick and started their drive on the 32 yard line. Holmquist carried the ball out to the 40 and then a 15 yard run by Tuttle pushed the team into Eagle territory.
Tuttle, Holmquist and Kopacz again carried the ball down the field for the Hilltoppers until it sat on the one yard line where Kopacz ran in the final touchdown of the first half to put the score at 20-22 with the Hilltoppers trailing.
“I felt the Eagles out played us up front in the first half. I was very proud of how our kids buckled down after we made some halftime adjustments,” said coach Shane Strong.
And buckle down is just what the Hilltoppers did as they stepped onto the field in the second half a new team that was fired up and determined.
The Toppers received the kick off to start the third quarter and they controlled the ball for seven and half minutes on their first possession alone.
Tuttle and Holmquist ran hard as they pushed their way down the field, picking up four to five yard gains each time.
Holmquist found a break in the line and carried the ball for 14 yards which placed the Toppers on the 18 yard line.
With the ball resting on the seven yard line, Holmquist again powered through the line for the Hilltoppers third touchdown and the lead with the score at 26-22.
The Eagles were forced to punt on their following drive which set the Hilltoppers on their own 48 yard line.
Tuttle ran the ball for a 13 yard gain and a 10 yard run by Kopacz helped in placing the Hilltoppers on the 20 yard line.
The fourth quarter would begin with the Toppers on the one yard line after a nine yard run by Tuttle and an eight yard carry by Holmquist.
Mrdutt scored his first touchdown of the game on a quarterback keeper and Tuttle brought the ball into the end zone for the two-point conversion to put the Hilltoppers ahead 34-22.
The frustration was evident in the Eagles as a defender shoved the helmet of Tuttle into the ground which chalked up a personal foul and added yards onto the kick off.
The Hilltoppers’ defense proved they were more than worthy as they came alive when it counted the most.
With the Eagles sitting on the three yard line, fourth down and one yard to go, the Hilltoppers’ defensive line pushed back harder and earned the turnover on downs.
The Toppers were not able to come up with a big play and Richard Ross was brought out for the punt.
The Eagles again brought the ball down the field, this time on the five yard line, but the Hilltoppers again showed their determination as they worked to hold the Eagles.
The Eagles were officially shut down when Tuttle broke through the line and sacked Carroll on the 15 yard line. And with it now fourth down and 12, a last effort pass by Carroll was broken up by Kopacz in the end zone.
The Hilltoppers would carry the ball out to the 40 yard line and let the clock tick down to zero to earn their ticket to the semi-final game.
“It was very clear that we were more conditioned based on our effort and play in the fourth quarter. Our offensive line played very well and Tuttle and Holmquist ran with great determination,” shared Strong.
Tuttle clearly bounced back from an ankle injury in Clayton as he led the team in rushing yards with 212 and a pair of touchdowns. Holmquist also proved the work horse he is as he rushed for a 119 yards. Kopacz rushed for 57 yards and Mrdutt had eight yards which accounted for the Hilltoppers rushing total of 395 yards.
Mrdutt had two completions on five attempts for a total of 32 yards; one reception by Kopacz for 20 yards and one to Ross for 12 yards.
Combined, the Hilltoppers had a total of 427 yards against the Eagles who had a total of 132 rushing yards and 177 passing yards.
The Hilltoppers’ determination has carried them to the semi-final game against Hilbert, which is set to get underway this Saturday, November 10 at D.C Everest High School in Schofield starting at 12:30 p.m.