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by Marlys Kruger
COLFAX — The Colfax football team seemed to have put everything together during the Dunn-St. Croix Conference contest against the Turtle Lake Lakers held on the Vikings’ home field September 23. But that old sports cliché “It ain’t over til’ it’s over” came about as they gave up a six-point lead with 47 seconds left in the game and lost to a very good Laker team 33-32. Although it was a loss, the Vikings accomplished several things that have not occurred in Colfax football in many years.
The Lakers pounded the Vikings a year ago and may have taken them a little lightly, especially after they scored on their first possession of the game. After taking the opening kickoff to their own 40, they marched downfield and on their sixth play, quarterback Walker Korish took the ball in on a running play from 33 yards out. The kick was good for a 7-0 lead with less than two minutes gone in the quarter.
After Drew Buchner returned the kickoff to the Vikings 33, Colfax went three and out and punted the ball away.
Turtle Lake started at their own 39 and with a couple of big plays including a 37-yard and a 12-yard pass completion put the ball on the Viking one-yard line. But the Lakers fumbled, and for once it bounced the right way, into a Vikings’ hand.
Buried deep in their own end, the Vikings were just trying to get some breathing room, but they ended up doing what not many professional or college teams have done. They went on a 99-yard drive which included a 20-yard gain by Asher Pecha, a 41-yard pass completion from Brian Tuschl to Pecha and a final run of 39 yards by Kade Anderson to the end zone. Buchner’s kick knotted it up at 7-7 with 3: 50 to go in the quarter.
The Lakers responded however, starting on a short field after the ensuing kickoff at the Colfax 46. They kept the ball on the ground five times then scored through the air from 24 yards out on a pass from Walker Korish to Walter Thill. The kick put them up 14-7.
Moving into the second stanza, the Vikings were faced with a fourth and one and Pecha followed his big lineman Mark Solberg and picked up three yards. But after a penalty called on them, their woes from the past few games showed up and they fumbled the ball away.
The Lakers continued to move the ball on an 18-yard pass and several running plays, putting them at the Viking eight. But, a pair of penalties on them helped the Vikings with the ball being moved back to the 14-yard line with a fourth down coming up. This time Korish found receiver Matt Muench who just barely got the ball across the goal line for another six points. The kick was missed making it 20-7 with 5:38 to go in the half.
Starting at their own 18 on Theo Hovde’s kickoff return, it was time for the Vikings to rise up as Tuschl ran for seven yards and Pecha added three for a first down. Another disaster was avoided when Solberg pounced on a fumble by the Colfax runner. Two plays later, Pecha burst through the middle of the line for a 64-yard scamper to the end zone. Buchner’s kick was on target to get the Vikings closer down 20-14 with 3:00 on the clock.
The Lakers came out throwing on their next possession but Buchner, Hovde, and Zach Hiitola had great coverage on the receivers and the defense stuffed a fourth and 15 run to take the ball on downs with just over a minute left. Pecha had runs of 23 and seven yards as the Vikings picked up two first downs but the clock ran out to end the half.
If any of the fans hadn’t returned from the concession stand at the start of the second half, they did not witness what hasn’t happened in a Colfax football game by a Viking player in many, many years. Pecha took the kickoff down the right sideline and blazed almost untouched 84 yards all the way to the end zone. The extra point kick was off the mark and it was 20-20 with just 14 seconds gone off the clock.
The defense rose to the occasion again as they forced a Laker punt after Nick Jensen, Solberg and Pecha came up with huge tackles with Pecha dropping the runner for a three-yard loss.
The Vikings picked up a first down on a 22-yard run by Hovde, but on a fourth and one, Pecha pounded the middle and was close enough for an official measurement but was about a foot short, allowing the Lakers to take over on downs on the Colfax 35.
Back on defense, Pecha dropped the runner again, this time for a five-yard loss, Korish found his receiver again for 15 yards with three defenders around him, and then kept the ball himself for three running plays, gaining 17 yards. With the ball at the Viking’s 20, he found yet another receiver, Christian Torgerson for six points. The two-point run was stuffed by the Vikings but it was 26-20 with 2:35 left in the quarter.
Buchner took the kickoff to the Viking 33 and they kept the ball on the ground five times with Pecha, Anderson and Hovde all gaining yards as they moved into the fourth quarter. Pecha picked up another first down on a nine-yard gain, then scampered for 20 more yards. Buchner added four more yards to the Laker three and Pecha pounded it in from there. The kick was off target again but it was knotted up at 26-26 with 9:47 to go.
After the Lakers took over at their own 40, the ball was put into Korish’s hands for five straight running plays with each one gaining yards. After a Laker penalty, a first-and-18 pass was picked off by Eli Ralph near the end zone who returned it to the Colfax nine to end the Laker threat.
The Vikings failed to capitalize on the turnover when they had Asher run up the middle three times and gained only five yards, resulting in a punt and another short field for the Lakers as they started at the Colfax 25. They picked up two first downs and fumbled twice but recovered their own fumble, and on a fourth down at the two, they went to the air and Hovde battled the Laker receiver for the ball as they fell on the ground and Hovde was declared the winner for the interception.
In the blink of an eye, Hovde snared a slick pass from Tuschl and streaked down the left sideline for 63 yards before being caught from behind at the Laker 17. Pecha ran for four yards, Hovde tacked on 10 more and Pecha had the honors of taking it in for the go ahead touchdown from three yards out. The kick was off again but it was 32-26 for Colfax with just 47 ticks on the clock.
But, the Vikings seemed to be caught off guard on a first down pass for 36 yards to Torgerson, and another one for nine yards. Jensen broke through to sack Korish for a loss of 14 yards and it was third and 15 at the 24. With 13 seconds left Koresh came up with yet another great pass, this time to Drew Torgerson for six points and the kick went through the goal posts for a 33-32 lead. Colfax attempted a long pass from their own 18 and although there was some banging going on with the receiver, a penalty was not called and a final incomplete pass ended the game with the Vikings coming oh so close to that first conference win.
“I am proud of the way the kids fought the entire game,” Viking coach Joe Beranek said. “It’s certainly what we have been trying to establish for the past six games. The offense came together and played as a cohesive unit to put points on the board. Unfortunately, we gave up too many big plays defensively. We have to give credit to Turtle Lake for making those plays in big moments. We just ran out of time at the end for us. We certainly had a lot of fun moments and a ton to build off of with three games remaining in the season,” he concluded.
Pecha accounted for 366 all-purpose yards including 201 rushing on 20 attempts, 53 receiving yards and 112 on kickoff returns. Tuschl had his most consistent game passing, completing four of six passes for 110 yards while Hovde rushed for 69 yards and caught two passes for 55 yards. Anderson ran four times for 57 yards as the Vikings totaled 360 yards on the ground for the game.
As if Pecha hadn’t done enough, he was one of three Vikings to collect seven tackles, along with Jensen and Solberg. Buchner added six and Ashton Greenwell and Dylyn Hiitola were credited with four each. Colfax won the turnover battle with two interceptions and a fumble recovery while coughing it up once, and had just two penalties called on them.
Colfax is now 1-5 overall and 0-4 in conference play. Up next is a road game against Elmwood-Plum City who happens to have one of the leading rushers in the state in Trevor Asher.