NYM ball control leads to big Homecoming victory
In need of a win, the New York Mills football team needed a big play to spark some enthusiasm from the biggest crowd of the year on Homecoming and Parent's Night and make a statement to their opponents.
"We talked all week about making big plays and we did," Head Coach Matt Radniecki said.
That play came from Brandon Kupfer at the end of a scoreless first quarter and propelled the Eagles to their first victory of the season, a 20-0 shutout of West Central Area.
Defense was the name of the game, as NY Mills held the Knights to just 121 yards offensively, including a third quarter where the Knights waited until the waning moments of the period to get their hands on the ball.
"I am really proud of how we played defensively. We tackled very well and also did our job and nothing more. We were disciplined and did a good job of doing what we were supposed to do."
West Central got off to a good start driving into the red zone on their first drive of the game but stalled on fourth down at the Eagles' 11-yard line, when a Dakotah Kashmark pass fell to the ground incomplete near nobody in the end zone.
The Eagles marched to near midfield, including a run from Kupfer, who played big minutes on both sides of the ball all game. Drew Peterson intercepted Charlie Peeters at the 42-yard line halting the Eagles' march.
With time running down in the first quarter, the Knights attempted to run a reverse on second and eight only to see Kupfer blow the play up sending Peterson flying backwards, forcing a fumble and Kupfer got up from the hit and pounced on the ball.
The play spurned a 15-play, 55-yard drive to the end zone capped by a Peeters plunge from the one. Kupfer's kick was good for an early 7-0 lead.
All 15 plays were runs, including two conversions on fourth down and inches. The Eagles never gained more than seven yards per play. They simply pounded the football and ate up the clock.
The ensuing kickoff went out of pounds giving WCA the ball on the 35, but was compounded by an unsportsmanlike penalty at the end of Peeters' touchdown. The Knights elected to take the penalty on the kickoff before the extra point try and started the ball at the midfield stripe.
Two plays later, Shane Novak picked off Kashmark and returned the ball into Knights' territory to the 42 with 3:17 remaining in the half.
Peeters drove the Eagles to the 25 on runs by Novak and Tyler Patron, but was forced into fourth and four at the 25 with 32 seconds remaining.
Rather than attempt a short yardage play, the Eagles elected to go for the end zone and Peeters found Taylor Ericksrud in the back corner of the end zone for a 13-0 lead. Ericksrud made a leaping grab after beating his man by three steps. Kupfer's kick was no good and the Eagles took a 13-0 lead into halftime.
The third quarter started out with the drive of the season for the Eagles after Peterson's second interception of Peeters was nullified by a pass interference call.
"We were finally able to sustain drives which kept them off the field but also ended up in points for us."
Taking the ball on their own 29, NY Mills pounded the ball at the Knights for another 16 plays eating up over nine minutes on the clock.
This time, the Eagles mixed up some passes, including a 10-yard screen to Nick LeTourneau, followed by a short pass to Novak.
The next six runs moved the ball to the 10 before another fourth down, this time needing three yards to convert.
Kupfer trotted out for a field goal to be held by Peeters.
Peeters took the snap but elected to fake and pass to Noah Pesola, who caught the ball at the two converting the first down but was held short of the end zone.
Peeters ran in from the two and Kupfer's extra point attempt was good capping off the scoring and putting a fork in the Knights, 20-0.
The Eagles turned the ball over twice, while WCA gave the ball up four times.
"This is the first game that we have won the turnover battle and we won."
A turnover negated another chance at Eagle points in the fourth quarter, but the Knights routinely gave the ball up on downs, while NY Mills elected to run out the clock with the lead.
NY Mills had 236 yards of total offense, 173 on the ground. The Eagles rushed for 52 more yards than the Knights had in total (121). The Eagles' ball control game made the first down numbers a blowout, 15-6, in favor of NY Mills.
The Eagles kept the referees at bay accruing only one penalty flag for 10 yards.
"It was very exciting for our players to get this Homecoming win and it was great to see the crowd support that we had. Our fans have been loyal and we appreciate the support that they have given us."
The Eagles (1-4) will take some new-found momentum on the road to face the Ottertail Central Bulldogs (3-2) in Henning Friday night.