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GLENWOOD CITY — There are not many options, if any, in a coach’s playbook that are designed to cover nearly 80 yards on the final play of the game, but Cadott was able to successfully pull off one on the final play of last Friday night’s Dunn-St. Croix football contest in Glenwood City to stun the Hilltoppers.
With just six seconds remaining on the game clock and the contest knotted at 14 all, the Dunn-St. Croix football match up appeared headed for overtime as Cadott stood at its own 21-yard line. But, instead of taking a knee to end regulation play, the Hornets took flight as back-up quarterback Nelson Wahl, who had thrown a touchdown earlier in the final stanza, launched the ball into the dark, cool night air.
A pair of Glenwood City defenders drew a bead on the floating pigskin as it began its descent. But, instead of intercepting or knocking down the toss, both Hilltoppers completely missed the ball and it fell into the awaiting arms of Cadott’s Ryan Sonnentag. As the defenders collided and fell to the ground, Sonnentag turned and raced to the endzone as time expired to give the Hornets (2-1) an improbable 20-14 road victory in the October 9 match up.
Leading 14-0 to begin the fourth quarter of play, the Hilltoppers were stung by the Hornets 20 unanswered points in the final 12 minutes of the contest and left dazed by the defeat. Two of the Hornets three scores followed Hilltopper turnovers.
“This was a very disappointing loss because we played great defense for three quarters,” said Shane Strong, Glenwood City’s head coach. “You should win the football game when you go into the fourth quarter up two touchdowns. We made too many mistakes down the stretch, many of them due to our conditioning.”
“It is my job as the coach to make sure we are in good enough shape to play four quarters of football,” added Strong.
The Toppers’ defense, which had bent but did not break through the first 36 minutes of play highlighted by a goal-line stand at the end of the first, began to fatigue in the fourth quarter.
Near the end of the third quarter, Cadott’s Tegan Ritter recovered and returned a Glenwood City fumble 20 yards to the Toppers 22, setting up the Hornets first score. Just the play before, a Brady McCarthy interception had given the Toppers the ball.
Cadott brought the ball down to the Glenwood City 6 yard line on a pass play of 15 yards and short gain as the quarter ended.
Just two plays and 40 seconds into the final stanza and with a sense of irony, Tegan Ritter ended Cadott’s shut out with a 4-yard run. Peter Wier kicked the point after touchdown to pull the Hornets within seven, 14-7, of the Hilltoppers.
On its next possession, Glenwood City picked up 15 yards on a first-down pass from Bryce Wickman to Brady McCarthy, a favorite target of the Toppers’ junior slinger after senior Brandyn Hallquist, who hauled in four catches for 90 yards including the Toppers’ first score, left the game with an injury in the first half and did not return.
But the drive quickly stalled near midfield and the Toppers punted.
Taking control at their 25, the Hornets buzzed down the field in ten plays to eventually tied the game at 14 with 4:18 to play. Starting quarterback Gavin Tegels carried much of the load, rushing for 35 yards and throwing for another 19 yards until he was injured and left the game.
In most instances that would spell disaster for an offense and team – but not for Cadott.
Senior running back and receiver Nelson Wahl simply stepped under center and threw a 25-yard scoring strike to Rayna Sonnentag. Weir added the PAT and suddenly the game was a push.
In what turned out to be Glenwood City’s final drive of the game, Bryce Wickman guided the Toppers down to the Cadott 27 with a pair of passes for 23 yards while Max Janson added another 20 on the ground. But a short gain on first down and a pair of incomplete passes left Glenwood City facing a fourth down and six to go.
Following a Toppers’ timeout, Wickman tried to go down the middle of the field with a pass but it was intercepted by the Hornets’ Ethan West at the 8 yard line.
Runs of six and seven yards respectively by Wahl and Ritter gave the Hornets a first down at their own 21. After an officials timeout with six seconds to play, Wahl launched his 79-yard strike to Sonnentag for the game-winning score after which Cadott chose not to try for the conversion. Wahl finished 2-for-3 with both of his completions going for touchdowns and 104 yards. He also picked up 15 yards rushing on five tries.
The outcome was one that few could have imagined just 12 minutes earlier.
Although Glenwood City had just 103 yards of offense in the first half, it held a 7-0 advantage thanks to a stingy defense that had stood tall when needed and allowed the Hornets only 130 yards through two quarters of play.
On its second offensive possession of the game, Glenwood City would strike pay dirt, needing just two plays to do so.
Bryce Wickman and receiver Brandyn Hallquist collaborated on back-to-back completions – the first for 19 yards to midfield followed by a 50-yard pitch and catch for the game’s first touchdown. Marcis DeSmith sent the PAT through the uprights and Glenwood City led 7-0 at 4:34 of the opening quarter.
That was also the score at halftime.
Max Janson took the second-half kickoff and ran it back 53 yards to the Hornets 35. The Hilltoppers need just six plays to punctuate the endzone capped by one-yard quarterback keeper from Wickman at 9:47. DeSmith was good on the kick and it was a 14-0 Glenwood City advantage. During the drive, Brady McCarthy filled the shoes of the injured Hallquist and caught a pair of throws for 21 yards. The Hornets were also flagged for a 15-yard pass interference that gave the Toppers a first down at the 13 yard line.
But slowly Cadott’s run game spearheaded by Gavin Tegels began to wear down the Topper players, many of which were playing on both sides of the ball. Once Tegels exited with his injury, Nelson Wahl and his pin-point passes help to complete the visiting Hornets’ comeback.
The big fourth-quarter scoring splurge helped Cadott win not only the game but yardage battle. The Hornets finished with 352 yards compared to 224 for the Hilltoppers.
Gavin Tegels finished 10-for-19 passing for 87 yards and two interceptions. Tegels was also the Hornets leading rusher with 97 yards on 23 hauls. Nelson Wahl, who had seven receptions for 70 yards before taking over the signal calling duties, passed for 104 yards and two scores on an efficient 2-for-3 performance. Tegan Ritter tallied 41 yards running and a touchdown on ten carries; he also made the crucial fumble that led to Cadott’s first score.
Bryce Wickman finished 15-for-33 passing for 189 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Brandyn Hallquist snagged four of those passes for 90 yards and a TD before exiting the game. McCarthy netted 79 yards on eight catches, Gavin Janson had two for 12 yards and Drew Olson one for eight. Max Janson led the Toppers’ ground game with 47 yards on ten carries.
“I was really happy with our two senior leaders Gavin Janson and Will Eggert,” stated Strong. “They are playing every down with a sense of purpose and determination. Brady McCarthy was spot on all night as receiver for us.”
“But we dropped several passes that could have been touchdowns, making this a three-or-four score game late,” Strong continued. “We will get better this week. We need to develop more depth in our line-up so we can get some rest throughout the game.”
Glenwood City will remain at home as it welcomes rival Boyceville (2-1), who earned a 14-8 road win over Elmwood/Plum City last week, this Friday night, October 16.