BOYCEVILLE — The Colfax football team had one goal on their minds as they traveled to Boyceville for their final regular season game last Friday night. That was to win the game to become playoff eligible and more then likely earn them a spot in the WIAA playoffs. A loss would end the season and the high school careers of several seniors.
It turned out to be a difficult task. After falling behind at the half 14-6, those same seniors, along with plenty of underclassmen, came up big by shutting down the Bulldog offense and scoring a pair of touchdowns to pull out an 18-14 win. They now head to Edgar this Friday night for a Level 1 game. Edgar finished 7-1 to tie for first in the Marawood Conference. (The win on the gridiron culminated a pretty good week for Colfax athletics as just a day earlier, both cross country teams won the conference meet and two days before that, the volleyball team won conference).
“We have been working for this for a long time,” senior defensive back Troy Bird said. “Boyceville has been a really physical team since seventh grade but we took over in the second half. We are in the playoffs but we plan on going more then one game!””
The Vikings have battled injuries since early in the season, especially in the offensive line, forcing other players to step up and play positions they may have never played before, or at least very sparingly. One of them, senior Logan Sikora, normally a defensive linebacker, filled in at left guard for this game and he and his linemates broke open enough holes to allow the running backs to rush for 251 yards on the night.
“The coaches asked who wanted to help out in the line and since a couple of the other guys had played there in the last few weeks, I volunteered. I wanted to help the team and I am so excited things worked out and we are still playing.” he said.
Colfax took the opening kickoff and looked like they might move right down the field as they picked up three first downs: one on a 10 yard run by Noah Pretasky, the second on a 21 yard pass completion from Jarrod Rudi to Devon Utpadel and the third on a 13 yard blast by Ethin Kiekafer. The drive stalled on the Bulldog 30 yardline however.
On Boyceville’s first drive they pounded the ball on the ground and with two big penalties on the Vikings, moved the ball into the endzone on a two yard run by quarterback Hunter Anderson. They added the two point conversion on a pass from Brady Schutts to Jacon McIntyre for an 8-0 lead with 1:27 left in the first quarter.
It didn’t take long for the Vikings to respond however. YThey started at their own 25, and on their third play, Pretasky found a hole on the left side and went right down the sideline for a 75 yard score. The two point pass fell incomplete and the Vikings were down just 8-6.
The Vikings’ defense forced a Boyceville punt early in the second quarter but the Vikings had to give the ball back to them in part because of two more penalties. The Bulldogs then found a groove and moved the ball from their own 39 all the way to the Viking’s four yard line and on fourth and goal, the Colfax defense swarmed Anderson for a six yard loss. Colfax took the ball back but failed to move it again and punted it back with under a minute to go in the half. On their first play, Anderson escaped from what looked like a sack but found Brett Boda in the corner of the endzone among a pack of Colfax defenders for a TD from 44 yards out. The two point conversion was stopped but Boyceville went into intermission up 14-6.
But the halftime talk from coach Mark Maloney did the trick as the Colfax defense completely stifled Boyceville the second half by forcing them to punt four times and turn the ball over on downs in the final seconds. Starting with their first possession in the third quarter, Boyceville netted four yards in three plays, and after the Vikings took the punt at their own 42, it was just a matter of time before the running backs and the linemen took charge. Pretasky and Jeremiah Wait took turns carrying the ball, culminating in a Wait two yard plunge for six points with 6:34 left in the quarter. Pretasky was stopped on the two point conversion run, but the Vikings had cut the deficit to two points.
The teams traded punts early in the fourth quarter and with the clock showing 10:29, the Vikings began a long journey on a short field as the Boyceville punt was shanked, giving them the ball at the Bulldog 37. After a five yard loss and a QB sack, Colfax had a third and long but a penalty on the Bulldogs gave Colfax a first down. Running plays by Wait, Pretasky, Rudi and Kiekhafer put the ball at the Bulldog nine yard line. With Kiekhafer pretty much calling for the ball according to Maloney, he drove those nine yards with three or four Dogs on his back for the go ahead score with 6:40 to go. A conversion pass fell incomplete but it was 18-14 in the Vikings’ favor.
Boyceville went to the air but Alimu Davis nearly picked a pass off, but knocked it away instead. Bird and Jacob Steinke both forced incompletions and Boyceville punted again.
With around six minutes left, all Colfax had to do was control the ball but the full moon seemed to have a little effect on them. On third and nine, Pretaski fumbled the ball and senior lineman Nolan Prince came up with maybe the biggest play of his career as he pounced on it, for a Colfax first down no less. Keeping the ball on the ground, they ate up some clock but on a fourth and one, they punted the ball away and put the game in the defense’s hands. Boyceville took over on their own three with 2:06 to go and they certainly were not going down easy. Anderson completed four passes to get the ball to the Vikings 22 yard line but from there on out the defensive backs and linebackers did their job and broke up or knocked down four straight pass attempts to put the game away.
A rather excited group of Vikings calmly shook hands with their opponents before starting a celebration which included the proverbial dousing of the head coach.
A somewhat wet Maloney was thrilled with the perseverance of his team.
“We have had to come back many times during the season,” he said. “These kids have shown the ability to keep focused and work as a team. So many of them have had to step up on both sides of the ball and they did just that. Stopping them before the half down on our goaline was a huge momentum change. And us coming out to start the second half the way we did on both sides of the ball was a statement we needed to make.”
Pretasky finished with 184 yards on 22 carries while Kiekhafer and Wait both added 31 with Wait running 13 times and Kiekhafer five. Most of the Vikings’ damage was done on the ground as Rudi completed just three of seven passes for 19 yards. Utpadel sacked Boyceville’s quarterback twice and forced him into throwing several off balance passes as he chased him down throughout the game.
“Now I have to get familiar with the playoff business,” Maloney said. “I haven’t had to deal with all the seeding and WIAA stuff since I coached at McDonell. But I am certainly glad I have too,” he added.