This year, more than any other, teams are not just battling on the field, they are battling off the field. Typical opponents are the guys in uniform across the line, but this year they are battling a late season start, early snowfall, limited practice time, rising COVID-19 numbers, mandatory quarantines, and countless safety protocols.
On Nov. 12, the Mound Westonka football team faced off against Bloomington Kennedy Eagles at home on Haddorff Field. Just getting to this point in the year and still being able to field a full team is an accomplishment by both teams. Despite the cold late November temperatures and the snow-covered field, these boys were warmed up and ready to play!
Junior Jacob Peterson received the opening kick off for the White Hawks and secured excellent field position, downing it at the 45. From that point on, it was the senior captain showcase with Tucker Anderly, Trent Bowe and Logan Leonard gaining yards in the air and on the ground for the White Hawks. Appropriately, the drive ended with razzle-dazzle trick play when junior Tyler Von Bank handed off the ball to Leonard, who passed it to Bowe for a 20-yard touchdown reception. The extra point by sophomore Ben Neve made it 7-0.
The Eagles’ first drive started at their own 15. They could not convert to a new set of downs and were forced to punt on 4th down. Bowe picked it up and scrambled to the 40, giving the White Hawks excellent field position for the second time in a row.
Von Bank helped contribute to the first touchdown of the game, now it was junior Jake Gaylord’s turn who was in as QB. After a march down the field, Gaylord finished the drive with a quarterback keeper and scrambled to the end zone from the 14-yard line. Neve split the uprights again, making it 14-0.
It had been a while since the White Hawks had strung together two consecutive scoring drives, but they were not out of surprises yet. The onside kick to the Eagles was not expected and mishandled. Junior Jack Pfeiffer recovered it so the White Hawks had the ball on the 50. In this series, penalties proved to be too much for the White Hawks and they could not score. Forced to punt, the Eagles took over at their own 20 as the first quarter expired.
Once again, the tough White Hawks defense forced the Eagles to punt. The offense took over and their ground game showed just how tough and determined they were. No yards came easy as they dug in and moved down the field. A long pass to Leonard got the White Hawks to within 1 yard of the end zone. Gaylord kept it and ran it in again, making it 21-0 with Neve’s extra point. With 9 minutes left in the second quarter, the Eagles took over, and this time they put together an impressive drive. About to convert again, EJ Van Dyken sacked their QB and forced a punt. Neither the White Hawks nor the Eagles could score in the final two possessions of the game, leaving the score 21-0 at the half.
The Eagles were to receive the ball to start the second half and Neve kicked a bomb. Good special teams tackling forced the Eagles to start at their own 10-yard line. They could not sustain a drive and soon punted. The White Hawks started their first drive of the half with great field position on the 40. Despite a 20-yard reception by Bowe and the entire Eagles defense being needed to stop Anderly in the red zone, the White Hawks could not punch it in. Despite being first and goal, the White Hawks turned it over on downs.
The defense held the Eagles scoreless again and forced another punt. On this drive, they would not be denied when Gaylord finished the drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Leonard and an extra point by Neve, making it 28-0.
The Eagles still had a little life left in them when they returned the kick off with an impressive 74-yard run, making it 28-6. They tried the onside kick too, but failed when senior Shawn McNatt covered it for the White Hawks, giving Westonka great field position to start the drive at the 50. Despite some progress, the White Hawks could not convert and turned it over on downs.
The Eagles didn’t fare better and had to punt. A fumble by the White Hawks stopped this drive before it really started and the Eagles found themselves with good field position. This time they capitalized and scored, making it a 28-12. The tough Westonka defense though wasn’t done and tackled their 2-point conversion attempt for a loss, making the score 12-28.
This time the Eagles tried the squib kick, and that too was no match for the hands of the White Hawks. Jacob Peterson grabbed it and ran it back to the 44. Unfortunately, another turnover by the White Hawks handed the ball back to the Eagles, but they would get their revenge with another quick turnover recovered by the White Hawks. Anderly still had gas in the tank, despite playing both ways all game. He broke through a couple of tackles for 68 yards and won the foot race to the end zone. With Neve’s extra point the White Hawks made it 35-12, which would be the final score of the game.
The defense played a big role in this game with sophomore Cam Peterson involved on 10 tackles, Von Bank with 9, and both Anderly and Bowe involved in 7. The offensive line gave Gaylord and Von Bank the time and space they needed to convert offensively and the defensive line made the Eagles running game virtually non-existent.
The win moved Westonka to the second round of the Section 5AAAA playoffs. Originally they were set to play SMB on Tuesday night but, again, the battle off the field was too much for the SMB Wolfpack and Minneapolis South Tigers, who both had to cancel their playoff opportunities due to COVID. Mound Westonka (3-3) will now face their Lake Minnetonka rivals, the Orono Spartans (4-2), in a 1:00pm Saturday (11/21) game.
Coach David, who was excited about the win, commented after the game, “We are a very young team this year relying on many underclassmen each week. It has really been fun to see their development over the course of the season as they just continue to improve with each rep that they get.” When asked about Westonka’s playoff draw Coach David said, “Orono is the #1 seed in our section for a reason. If it wasn’t for some injuries and COVID issues, they would most likely be 6-0. They have 20+ seniors who have a lot of varsity experience and are playing at a high level right now. We are going to have to put in our best week of practice this week in order to get the job done on Saturday and that is exactly what we plan to do. We are excited for the challenge.”
UPDATE Nov. 18, 2020: Due to the governor’s announcement of Executive Order 20-99, Mound Westonka (3-3) will now face Benilde-St. Margaret’s on Friday, Nov. 20, at 5 p.m.